Columbus Makes Art Presents Marcus W. Billingsley: A Cleveland Native Embracing His Second Home
If you follow the Columbus arts scene, you may already be familiar with Marcus Billingsley, his work or perhaps his Instagram alter ego, Marcus the Carcass. If not, his work will soon be hard to miss thanks to a number of upcoming projects throughout the city.
Marcus is one of a trio of artists (including Lucie Shearer and Thom Glick) recently chosen by Summer Jam West to complete a 60’ mural on the side of Third Way Cafe (3058 W. Broad St.) on the Hilltop. Summer Jam West executive director Danny Peterson recently sat down with Marcus to catch up.
Danny: Tell me about Marcus the Carcass.
Marcus: (Laughing) When I was in high school, I wasn’t very friendly; I was quiet and kept to myself. Some of my friends just knew who I was, knew that I was this morbid guy, knew that I was pessimistic, so they started calling me “Marcus the Carcass” — here’s this walking dead kid.
Danny: Does that persona still resonate with you?
Marcus: Yeah, I think so. In my mind, I don’t stray away from negative thoughts, because they’re always there, and they can be useful. From where I grew up, my circumstances weren’t always positive. I grew up in poverty; I grew up around gang violence and drug activity. There’s all these things from my childhood that I experienced, and I want to be able to twist these things and not only educate but bring to light artistically some of these unfortunate circumstances.
Danny: How do you describe your art?
Marcus: I see myself as a surrealist. That’s the form of illustration that I have really adhered to. It’s the best way for me to express myself, in that dreamy, otherworldly manner. I don’t always get to use those techniques in some of my commercial work, but I try to incorporate it whenever I can. My work is always dealing with dreams, metaphysical questions and thought processes — how we think, how we feel about each other, how we interact with one another. Surrealism really helps me delineate those things.
Danny: Tell me more about that. What’s the significance of clouds in your work?
Marcus: I like clouds; I’m a cloud artist. It’s just something I’ve come to adopt as a style. With some of the themes I like to include in my art, I think that clouds can go either way — they can be seen as happy, or they can be foreboding. I like that versatility, so I include them in a lot of my imagery.
Danny: You’ve been able to participate in the Deliver Black Dreams initiative. What’s that experience been like?
Marcus: Deliver Black Dreams is something very important to me. I was super happy when Lisa McLymont reached out to me. They’ve cultivated a crew of amazingly talented individuals to work on this, and I’m just so happy to be part of it. We did a mural last year [along Fifth Avenue], which was sort of a preview of what the full campaign would be, and I worked on that with tons of artists from throughout the community, which was great.
The best part about it was that it was sort of like a cookout — it was a “come together” event. Everyone was helping out, everyone was being paid and we’re basically creating this wealth — for the community, for ourselves and for future Black people. I think that’s one of the main manifestos of Deliver Black Dreams — not only creating opportunities for future generations, but also having the people here and present now be able to witness and see those dreams.
Danny: What’s the best thing about the Columbus arts scene right now?
Marcus: For me the best thing about the Columbus arts scene are the artists! There is a great sense of community between people who I’d usually be competing with for work. Most artists I’ve interacted with are transparent about who they work with and how they get there, which has been very helpful for up-and-coming artists like myself looking for mentorship and guidance.
Summer Jam West is a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to bringing art to the Hilltop. Despite the cancellation of its annual arts and music festival in 2021, Marcus, Lucie Shearer and Thom Glick will bring their “Pursuing Good Together” mural concept to life in June.
Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting and advancing the arts and cultural fabric of Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art. Learn more about local artists, organizations, public art and events at ColumbusMakesArt.com.