Interview: Sha Be Allah
This story was originally published in The Source Issue #272
If you’re an art aficionado or just someone who wanders some of America’s most populated metropoles, it’s more than likely that you’ve run across some form of street art, painting or sculpture. Some are random; however, there are a few that seek to send a message to the masses. One that may be surprisingly familiar is the “Protect Your Heart” sidewalk stencil. Created by Queens native, Uncutt Art, aka Understanding, “Protect Your Heart” can be found in every major city, on both coasts, and even a few countries around the globe. Sounds like a lot of work for one man. The Source had a chance to catch up with Uncutt to discuss the origin of the concept, the legality of his work (or lack thereof), and why he’s not a graffiti artist.
What is the real story behind what prompted you to start the slogan “Protect Your Heart”?
It was a gradual story; a thing that came out overtime. I had an aim, and I knew what I wanted to do. I was just looking for the right fit. That was the first step to allow me to get in that zone. The actual quote itself is more of a lifestyle. I wanted everyone to realize there’s more to life than what we physically see and actually feel. So people often push their feelings aside and from this comes anxiety. So, I wanted people to get in the zone of learning their feelings.
Would you say that the movement itself was more emotionally motivated?
Well, it was more spiritually motivated. It had nothing to do with emotion, but more to do with your inner self. When I talk about feeling, I’m talking about knowing yourself. That vibe it could be a good vibe or a bad vibe. It’s like when Jordan is in a zone. I just want people to identify with getting in that zone of using your inner self. I feel like “protect your heart” is a way of telling people without telling them, and have them come into themselves. It puts them in the position where they have no choice, but I choose to love.
I heard you say you were living the “Protect Your Heart“ lifestyle? What do you mean when you say that?
Well, before “Protect Your Heart” lifestyle, I was a loving and giving person. And, I still am, but I wasn’t really protecting myself. Everything I was dealing with wasn’t with self awareness. I had to start learning and loving myself and just be who I am instead of what others wanted me to be. At first, I was living a whole different lifestyle, more physical and more about what I have or possess. But, life is about more than that. I got out of the zone of the industry, the partying, the girls and started coming into myself. I stopped trying to change myself because of someone else’s perception, and didn’t care about what others think. So, changing my lifestyle was becoming more aware of my spiritual side than my physical. My change is my spiritual connection to Nature.
What made you decide to make your concept illegally public?
When I was inspired with “Protect Your Heart” maybe a year and a half ago, I had a street run with the Michael Jackson piece, and you can see it everywhere in New York. Around the afro, I wrote a few words that formed the piece and the words said “All these strange pieces came together to create this beautiful image, and as humans so can we.” So my quest was to make people realize that certain things were already in motion, and to get people’s attention. All I have is my art, so I can use it to do that.
Did you ever write Graffiti?
What made you use the medium of spray paint?
When I first started my art I wanted to find a way to get it out to the people but I didn’t know how. I found that street art was the best way to get it across.