Ogden artist Holly Morphet creates portraits using rubber-stamp ink spots

Ogden artist Holly Morphet creates portraits using rubber-stamp ink spots

OGDEN — No heaven, no countries, no possessions.

It’s a concept singer-songwriter and ex-Beatle John Lennon invited us to contemplate in the 1971 hit “Imagine,” a song that dreams of the day when people live in peace “and the world will be as one.” And now, courtesy of a local artist, it’s an idea that a downtown coffee shop is incorporating into its walls.

Ogden artist Holly Morphet recently completed a mural on a wall inside the Grounds for Coffee in downtown Ogden. The piece, which features John Lennon’s likeness and the lyrics to his song “Imagine,” will be unveiled in a ribbon-cutting at 6:15 p.m. Friday, March 1, in the coffee shop at 111 Historic 25th St. The unveiling is part of the city’s monthly First Friday Art Stroll, and Morphet will be the featured artist at GFC.

For Sadie Smith, owner of the coffee shop, Lennon’s iconic song has long been a favorite of hers.

“I’ve just thought for a long time that the song fits the coffee shop perfectly with how diverse it is,” Smith said. “We have so many walks of life coexisting peacefully in here — atheists and Christians, Republicans and Democrats.”

Smith and her employees had been talking about having Lennon’s “Imagine” lyrics painted on a wall in the coffee shop for quite some time. They’d even thought about doing it themselves — projecting the lyrics onto the wall and tracing them in paint.

But then, last summer, Smith met Morphet.

“Holly was our featured artist for August at the coffee shop,” Smith said. “I got to talking to her about the idea and said, ‘Maybe you’re the artist for this.’”

Smith commissioned Morphet to create a 4-foot-by-8-foot mural. From a distance, the mural depicts the bespectacled musician with his “Imagine” lyrics overlapping one side of his face. But here’s the thing: Get up close, and you see that the image is made up of hundreds upon hundreds of small rubber-stamp impressions.

For this mural, Morphet used about 30 different sizes of three stamp images — the GFC logo, some musical notes, and a drawing she’d done back in junior high school of one person comforting another person.

“I’m sitting here staring at it right now, and it is unreal,” Smith said of the nearly completed mural in a recent telephone interview. “And she does it all with stamps.”

Morphet was born and raised here in Northern Utah and earned her bachelor of fine arts degree from Weber State University in 2015. She does all sorts of art, in all sorts of media — sculpting, pencil and charcoal drawings, paintings — but her real love is creating portraits.

“I just love being able to capture someone’s likeness, and I feel I can do that really, really well,” she said.

A little too well, in fact. Morphet’s portraits tend to be so “tight” that viewers often mistake them for photographs.

“They were a little too realistic,” she said. “It was ironic. You’d think that’s where you want to be, but when you get there people don’t always understand you’re doing that.”

For the John Lennon “Imagine” mural, Morphet used a technique she’s been working with in recent years — a sort of pointillism/mosaic image made up of these small rubber-stamp impressions.

“Pointillism is very similar to what I do, although that’s done with a point or dot,” Morphet said. “This is done with rubber stamps that I carve myself. My brother likes to call them ‘Hollygrams.’”

Morphet was introduced to making rubber stamps, which she hand-carves, at her first art class at the University of Utah. She took to it immediately, saying there was something “satisfying” about it.

A self-described “perfectionist,” Morphet says creating stamp art forces her to accept artwork that might be less than ideal.

“You can’t erase with this medium,” she said. “That did something for me, because I think I would get a little bogged down in all that perfection, and this was very liberating for me.”

Morphet admits she struggled with self-esteem issues when she was younger, and battled episodes of cutting herself. The symbolism that she now uses sharp instruments to cut images into rubber stamps and create art is not lost on her.

“I never felt good enough growing up, and I definitely had problems with self-harm,” she said. “My artwork has been what’s helped me overcome that, it’s given me this outlet.”

Morphet has written a book about her experiences in overcoming self-harm; it’s titled “Cutting Free.”

Smith said this art stroll featuring Morphet’s work is particularly fitting since Friday is Self-injury Awareness Day.

“It turned into this perfect thing where Holly will be promoting her book on this self-harm awareness day,” Smith said.

When she’s not creating art, Morphet is teaching it. She has a private art class with students who’ve been with her “for awhile,” and she also teaches art classes for Boys and Girls Club after-school programs.

“I try to expose them to many, many things in art, just like I was exposed to them,” she said.

Morphet’s “Imagine” mural is the latest in a series of personalized art pieces at the local coffee shop. Previously, on the opposite side of the coffee shop, Smith had art student Crysta Faye create an Ogden scene incorporating some of the words from the Dr. Seuss book “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.”

“That’s fitting for the coffee shop, because a lot of growth and new ideas are fostered here,” Smith said.

Smith said the downtown GFC has room for one more mural. She has plans to commission an artist to paint a work that shows the life cycle of coffee. She’s hoping to have that one ready for the business’ 10-year anniversary this April.

As Morphet has spent the last six months creating the mural in front of coffee shop customers, Smith says folks can’t believe their eyes when they realize what the artist is doing.

“People are just blown away by it,” Smith said. “A lot of people didn’t realize it’s made up of stamps. From far away you can’t tell, unless you come up close. When we point out, they get a closer look and go, ‘Oh my gosh! That’s even more incredible!’”

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