By Kambiz Shekdar, Ph.D.
Chalk artist and muralist Felix Morelo creates public artworks that directly engage with viewers, possibly more than the work of any other contemporary artist. Happy pedestrians veer over to step into his “Good Luck Spots,” drawn in chalk across city parks and sidewalks when Felix is in a good mood. When things go dark, Felix’s “Bad Luck Spots” can spark rage. “If I ever see you knelt on the ground doing your stupid chalk drawing bullshit, I’m kicking you in the face,” reads the first hate response he received for his Bad Luck Spots.
Felix started drawing chalk faces on the street in 2009. Prior to that he was painting and drawing faces of all shapes, sizes, and colors on traditional surfaces like paper, canvass, and wood panel. But he felt like his artwork was not being seen. “I had all this work and energy, and nobody was seeing it. I was getting no shows. I needed to find a way to put myself out there, like, ‘I’M HERE!’”
Felix started painting chalk faces on city sidewalks, particularly in and around Washington Square Park and Union Square Park. They were like elaborate smiley faces with as much detail as is possible in the medium of chalk meets street. Sometimes, he would draw a trail of hundreds of faces, one after the other, that avid viewers would follow. One day, at the end of these trails, he began adding a “Good Luck Spot.”
Today, Felix’s Good Luck Spots have become iconic. Once unseen, in 2021 Felix received his first grant funding from City Artist Corps Grants to paint murals of his Good Luck Spots on donated walls throughout the city. In March, Felix will begin a partially funded residency in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico to paint a Good Luck Spot mural. His dream is to journey across the American landscape to paint more Good Luck Spot murals.
Felix’s faces captured my attention the moment I met their eyes, when I commissioned him to draw on the street outside ACME (restaurant) in connection with a private reception for my organization, Research Foundation to Cure AIDS, where a diversity of colorful faces and “Cure AIDS Spots” welcomed our delighted guests. As they arrived, Felix kept on drawing faces. More than a few were charmed by his captivating work and personality.
I get delighted every time I come across Felix’s work. And I start looking for him, “Is he still here? Maybe drawing more just around the corner?” It’s always a treat to find him, and depending on the number and size of the Good Luck, Bad Luck, Kissing, Hugging, or Screaming Spots, I feel like we get a window into not only Felix’s current state of mind, but also the soul of the city and current times.
Unlike any haters, although I might avoid his Bad Luck Spots, I feel they are just as important as the Good Luck Spots. In the age of Instagram, where whitewashing happiness across our lives has become common, Felix’s work reflects both the negative and positive aspects of life, each of those sometimes unavoidable.
Felix was born in New York City 50 years ago on December 14, 1971. If you have a wall or other public surface available for a mural by the artist, you can find him on Instagram @morelofelix and via his website at felixmorelo.com/, where you can also find “Good Luck Spot” T-shirts and artwork for purchase, as well as a donation button if you’d like to help with his ongoing chalk art or upcoming residency.
For those who want to hear about Felix and his work first-hand, please join us for part interview, part discussion, and part show-and-tell at 3:00 p.m., Wednesday, February 16, 2022 on my weekly livestream on LinkedIn Live at linkedin.com/in/kambiz-shekdar-51a52a34/.
Rockefeller University alumnus and biotech inventor Kambiz Shekdar, Ph.D., is the president of Research Foundation to Cure AIDS and the Science & LGBTQ editor at WestView News.