“How do you see something you’ve seen countless times before like you’ve never seen before?”
John Morse poses this challenge and his art aims to meet it with intricately layered bits of colorful found papers, mostly rescued recyclables, to render common images ranging from American flags to pop icons in new and unexpected ways.
A self-taught artist with studios in Atlanta and California, Morse’s collage, mobiles and installations have been featured in dozens of venues, including Socrates Sculpture Park and Kentler International Drawing Space in New York, the Contract Design Center in San Fransisco, and a one-person show of mobiles and sculpture on Barcelona’s famed Ramblas at Arts Santa Monica, a museum of the government of Catalunya.
He also has a long history of creating “visual poems” that insert brief, surprising bursts of poetry into the public realm. Morse’s 2010 Roadside Haiku, sponsored by Flux Projects, placed 10 different haiku on 500 small, corrugated plastic signs disguised as ads (“Lose Ugly Weight Fast!! / Be Healthier! Prettier! / Dump your bigotry.” read one of the poems) on street corners and utility poles across Atlanta.
In 2011, he was commissioned by the New York Department of Transportation to create Curbside Haiku, safety messages and images disguised as street signs and installed at 144 intersections across the city’s five boroughs (“Cyclist writes screenplay / Plot features bike lane drama. / How pedestrian.”) The installation earned him worldwide press coverage and the Brendan Gill Prize, established by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and awarded annually by the New York Municipal Art Society for the year’s work of art that best embodies “the spirit and energy of New York.” Winners include Cristo, Ang Lee and the musical “Hamilton.”
He is in the private collections of, among others, famed sculptor Mark di Suvero, Jacques D’Amboise, founder of the National Dance Institute, and Elizabeth Gilbert, best-selling author of “Eat, Pray, Love.”