Painting The Town! The Story of Four Local Artists’ Vision for OTC’s Cosmic Mural

By Todd Olvis

Old Town Cornelius recently caught up with local artists Jon Byrd, Obray Cowan, Miss Lotus, and Joe Obso – creators of the colorful cosmic mural you’ve probably noticed while driving around Main Street.

OTC began covering the murals progress back in July and we’re grateful for the artists agreeing to sit down and talk with us upon its completion to share some insights into its meaning and how it came to be.

This colorful new addition to the Old Town Cornelius landscape is located at 19806 South Main St. on the back side of Obray Cowan’s Dermal Designz Tattoo & Piercing, Inc. building running parallel to the railroad track.

This colorful new addition to the Old Town Cornelius landscape is located at 19806 South Main St. on the back side of Obray Cowan’s Dermal Designz Tattoo & Piercing, Inc. building running parallel to the railroad track.
“The Good Vibe Tribe” responsible for the Cosmic Mural in OTC
(L to R: Joey Obso, Miss Lotus, Jon Byrd, and Obray Cowan )

As an artist, Obray “saw his old building as an empty canvas and wanted to change the aesthetic from people just seeing this old building by the railroad track to something colorful and inviting”, hence conceptualizing the idea for the mural. With the blessing from property owner, Teresa Ferrell, whose father was an artist, she was behind the project 100% and even supplied the paint for the project. Obray then enlisted the help from the most talented people he could think of; friends and fellow artists, Jon, Lotus, and Joey, all accomplished artists from various disciplines and backgrounds.

Cowan sees “An empty canvas“

The group has done similar projects in Charlotte as well as in other areas and had wanted to do a mural in Cornelius for a long time. As Joey states: “It has been difficult getting approval for these types of projects in Cornelius. We had been asking for walls here in town to paint on for years and the city hadn’t been too receptive to the idea, saying that “these brick walls are historic buildings and can’t be touched”, things of that nature. So we just moved on and continued to paint where we usually paint which is down in Charlotte and other cities.”

The work began in June 2019

Once they got approval to move forward with the project they started off with a light, unstructured pencil sketch, with Obray wanting each artist to have creative freedom while encouraging them to paint whatever felt good. Soon after, they began painting on June 19th of this year.

Given the artists individual schedules they were often working on the mural separately, adding their own elements and styles here and there over a four month period.

The project was completed around October 6th, with the end result being this wonderfully unique and funky piece of public art that stands out while adding a rich texture to the surrounding landscape. Furthermore it captures the imagination with a flow of color and continuity that expresses a universal theme while lending an artistic vibrancy to the area and an exclamation point of sorts to the burgeoning Cornelius art scene.

It would become the first outdoor mural the group had done collectively or individually in the community.

“The Good Vibe Tribe”
(L or R: Jon Byrd, Obray Cowan, Miss Lotus, Joey Obsoe)

Art plays a major role in the vitality and character of any community and as Lotus points out: “we noticed the impact this mural had on the community immediately. People would stop and get out of their cars to watch us paint, and even bring their children by to check it out and we’d hear things like, “I’m really glad you’re doing this here in our town!”, and “this is so inspiring.”  “So we really got a sense that people were into it and grateful to see this going on in their community. It’s a good feeling to know that you’re inspiring people, and if just one person is inspired to create, or think outside the box, that’s a wonderful thing.”

~ Miss Lotus

Obray adds: “The mural makes me think about the progression of time. It’s a timeline of sorts that starts with the all seeing eye, and the rainbow, which is representative of everything. And then it moves into the tribal prehistoric era with dinosaurs, and then the middle split with a UFO…I don’t know what happened there(laughs). Then you have this beautiful goddess face that’s so powerful and impactful and then it moves on to the lotus which I feel is a transcending like flow into the water. I feel like everything that is anything is in it.”

It definitely has an Eastern vibe to it that in part comes from the influence of Miss Lotus, who grew up in Southern California exposed to Eastern philosophy and spiritualism. All four artists however come off as very grounded and conscious individuals in this respect with a large capacity for expression in their art, no doubt lending to the unity and flow of the piece.

Obray says that he gets calls and photos at his shop from random people saying they appreciate what he’s doing and that it’s inspiring them and their children. “When you have people who have lived in this community for 15 or 20 + years and they’re receptive to the art we’re creating, that’s a great feeling.”

In closing, Obray adds that he feels like this is just the beginning of a creative and consciousness movement in this community and he feels grateful to be a part of it. It’s a sentiment that is no doubt shared throughout the group, and in talking with these four artists, you get a sense of the passion and love they have for their art and their community coupled with a well grounded nature and strong sense of purpose. I believe we’ll see great things from this group both collectively and individually in the future. It was an absolute pleasure spending some time with the group and getting to know them.

As the interview wrapped up and goodbyes and contacts were exchanged I was left with a feeling of optimism and excitement for the future of the arts scene in Cornelius, and for the community in general. Thanks Obray, Lotus, Joey, and Jon.

Keep the good vibes alive!

About the artists:

Obray Cowan

Charlotte, NC native and founder, design guru, owner of Dermal Designz Tattoo, Inc. in Old Town Cornelius. Obray is known for his colorful and expressive artwork, both regionally, and internationally. With his creative ability on skin, canvas, and now fashion with his ArtByO brand, there is really no limit to his creative capabilities.

Dermal Designz Tattoos & Piercings, Inc.

19806 S. Main Cornelius, NC

(704) 655-7508

Read Related Coverage: OTC’s Artist Spotlight: A lasting Impression: Q & A with Obray Cowan

Joey Obso

Charlotte, NC native, Obso is a writer and a pioneer of the local graffiti & street art scene. He has painted throughout the country.

Miss Lotus

From Los Angeles, CA, Lotus studied fine art at Pratt Institute of Art & Design in Brooklyn, New York. After college, she was drawn to the freedom and exhilaration of painting graffiti and street art. Her street art is dedicated to exploring femininity and the alluring female form through the use of the spiritual lotus flower. Her work brings together brilliant imagery, glowing energy, and a sparkling vitality that uplifts as it transcends.
Her work has appeared in fine art galleries and in public across the country in places like Los Angeles, New York City, Charlotte, Asheville and Atlanta, to name a few

Jon Byrd

Charlotte, NC native, Jon grew up drawing and doodling and as a teen was drawn to graffiti and street art. He is accomplished in a wide range of art disciplines including tattoo, where he works alongside Obray at Dermal Designz Tattoos & Piercings, Inc.

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