Credits: Story by T.K. Mills & Photos by ThirdRail
T.K. Mills: When did you start making art?
UnCutt: I used to doodle a lot in class, little things to pass the time. I didn’t think of it as art. But, recently I figured out that what I was doing was art. It was me expressing myself in my own way.
How did you start the 'Protect Yo Heart' project?
Protect Your Heart was the reason why I even started doing art. It was a growth journey. Learning more about my energy, learning more about my personal inner being. I wanted to express that to people. To find yourself, and make creative relationships with yourself, and to understand your powers and your weaknesses, and to know how things relate to you and your inner-self. Protect Yo Heart was a way for me to put people on that mentality.
When did you first like spraying on the sidewalks?
2014. That’s when I did my first Art Basel. I did it on a wall out there. And then I did the Northside Festival in Williamsburg, where they asked me to do a mural. I asked what can I do? Prior to that, I was doing Michael Jackson and Steve Jobs. So before this stencil on the ground, I was more of a wheat-paste artist. Because I had art, and I wanted to show people my art. The words weren’t really like there yet.
I had actually created a big stencil for the mural, and then, right after the festival, I started doing the mural and everybody took their pictures. Right there on Bedford and North 7th street. After the mural was done, I took my stencil and took it to the sidewalk, and it was so… not even planned.. I was like… Oh!
And two days later, that shit was all over the internet. And I was like yo, this is it. This is how it was going to work. I knew that wall wouldn’t work. The reason why the wall was not working, was that when you see it coming, you are walking down the street, and you see it, by the time you get up to it, your brain has been analyzing the whole thing. You think so much, you can’t feel it. What happened with the floor, is that it surprises people…
It was just something that the Universe put there and all I had to do was just do it. So there was no thought behind it. But after people started posting it, I was like okay I am going to go around and start putting it out there. And the thing about it is that when it is on the floor, it sneaks up on you.
I get so many reactions from different people who hit me on DMs about how this thing helped them and how this is what they needed. People ask, how do you know where to put them? I am like you don’t know where to put them. Every encounter is not my encounter, it’s their encounter. So it’s their story that they are creating, and I am just a part of it, as is my art.
In the mythology of your art, 423 is a really important number. What is the significance ?
As soon as I started reposting, someone reached out, like, “Oh my God, this is the same thing as the Bible! You should check it out! Proverb 4:23, it says “To guard your heart, above all else.” It’s always “guard your heart above all else,” And in the end it’s always different.
My meditation brought me this phrase, this message, this feeling, this thing, that I am now responsible for spreading. Because now, not only has this thing existed before I existed, I feel now like this is the new version of it, and I’ve been passed down the baton.It seems like spirituality is a really important thing to you. When did you first start to discover your own inclination toward energy? Was it when you were a teenager or when you were older?
When I look back, I always had it. I used to just follow my instincts but make excuses because people would look at me like I’m weird. And you know I am from the hood, so when you just decided to get up, when everyone is hanging on a corner, and everybody is chilling, and you just decided to get up and go, you had better find a reason why you are going. And I never had a reason, so I would make up shit. And those would be the times when shit would happen, as soon as I left. So I always had this instinct.. I’ve learned how to follow this internal energy.
Why did you do paint hearts upside down?
Who made the right side up heart? And when they made it, what was their intention? Do we have to keep using that motherfucker’s heart?
I researched the heart. It goes way back to a flower that was shaped that way. And you know… that’s what the heart looked like. Whatever. Then this guy came and made it red. Whatever. However it went down, that’s generations before us. And I want creators of our generation, creators that are coming up with this new energy, to create things that has this energy to carry forward to the next generation. So I want to recreate the heart. And I want artists to use my heart as the main heart, because that shit to me represents real love.
Most of the hearts you see, that’s just branding. That’s not love.
You played a role on the latest season of Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It. How was your experience acting in the show?
That was dope. That was dope. I hope we get another season and I get brought back in. My whole life is implanted in that [Nola Darling’s] story. I had an interview with Spike Lee after he did the first season. I hadn’t even see the show. I didn’t know nothing about it. We were just talking about future projects. And he was like ‘yo, I just did this show and if I get a season 2, I will put you in it. So he actually wrote me into the story, where I essentially play myself. I wore an actor’s mask, but I got to go and just do me.
Tell me about your ‘Un-losophy.’ How did you create your artist name UnCutt?
Well, my name is Understanding. Nobody knows that. If you look at any credits, (I was in a couple of TV shows prior to She’s Gotta Have It), and you would never find me because I was under the name Understanding. And that’s where Un comes from.
Uncut to me it’s pure… raw... it’s straight from the heart. It’s not diluted. And my art is raw too. I paint in the meditative state. I am a spiritual artist. I channel shit through my art on that wall. I leave messages too. A lot of messages.
My message? The energy. The energy and the purpose behind it. Because everything has a purpose. I try not to do nothing with no purpose. I gotta have a purpose. I can’t paint without purpose. I am a creator. I bring things out into the world that have never been done before. Protect your Heart is a message. To me, it’s also a reminder… a call to action… It’s a movement .. I want my art to change the world.
He is on Instagram @UNCUTTART