By Michael J. Solender
Multi-media designer, graphic artist and illustrator Marcus Kiser is consumed by sparks that fly from creative collaborations.
“I love the idea of different minds creating because I’m fascinated by the creative mind,” says Kiser. “Multiple minds collaborating and building together, is a process that always astounds me.”
One of Kiser’s most fascinating collaborations is the Afro-futuristic Intergalactic Soul exhibit he fashioned with multi-disciplinary Charlotte artists Jason Woodberry and Quentin Talley. The evolving project – it’s been shown at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture, Art Basel Miami, University of North Carolina galleries at Asheville, Chapel Hill, and Wilmington, among others – features two young black astronauts encountering social, cultural and racial challenges as they travel through space.
What began in 2014 with two works has grown over the past seven years to host more than 50 pieces.
“We took a comic book narrative and applied contemporary art to it,” says Kiser. It’s traveling now with a musical narrative and multimedia, augmented reality elements, alongside digital illustration. “We got really crazy in the creativity and now it’s in Miami at the Frost Art Museum.”
In Charlotte, viewers directly engage with an outdoor mural Kiser and crew completed in the West End, near the city’s historic Black neighborhood Biddleville, at 1600 West Trade Street. Signage directs viewers to a mobile app where the mural’s futuristic text can be translated and accompanying video can be screened.
“I’m really proud of the artist scene in Charlotte,” says Kiser. “It’s a very tightly connected community. Much my work has a collaborative base. I’ve been connecting with young artists who are doing amazing things. I have so many text threads on my phone from different projects around the city and how we’re all willing to hop on and help each other out and things like that. I love it.”
Kiser’s resume is stitched together with connective tissue. He’s held residencies with ArtPlace America and the McColl Center for Art + Innovation, is a two-time ASC project grant recipient and received the Knight Foundation grant from their donor advisory fund. Kiser also serves board of directors and is a participating artist with Charlotte’s Boom Festival and has lent his talents to Lorien Academy of the Arts, where he served as an artist professor and board member.
In 2019, Kiser was the Adidas featured artist for the NBA All-star activation here in Charlotte, where he also worked with area children as the Jordan Brand Wings/NBA program youth design instructor.
“Through the NBA and the Charlotte Hornets, we took kids from different youth organizations around Charlotte and helped them understand storytelling and design their own t-shirts,” says Kiser. “This was an element of giving back and community engagement centered around design. It was pretty cool.”
Kiser looked to the Charlotte community, especially historically Black spaces, as he used his 2020 ASC Creative Renewal Fellowship.
“Part the interactive mural in the West End was about introducing art into historically Black spaces,” says Kiser. “They were public pieces developed through this lens of Afro-futurism. Projects I’ve done with the fellowship include one that we did Uptown about black hair and black beauty, which was a dance multimedia performance. I developed a project with Duke University about a student and having this corridor of Blackness that he needed to escape to. I created motion graphics and a multimedia piece to reimagine our public art and these Black spaces outside of just paint on a wall. I did a workshop with McColl and then the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum in New York about using art in comics and storytelling through the lens of design. I’ve been having a ball the whole last year.”
For Kiser, the sum of artistic collaboration is always great than the whole of its parts.