No, you’re not tripping. This local artist creates murals that move.

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Photo by Alex Cason

Just when you thought you’d seen everything in the Charlotte mural scene, artist Nick Napoletano decided to shake it up even more with an entirely new concept: murals that move.

The artist moved here three years ago from New York City. Two years ago, he created his first mural in Charlotte. And for the past year and a half, every mural he’s designed here has been built with the ability to be interactive. We bet you’ve seen some of them and haven’t even noticed: Solstice Tavern’s mural, his women’s empowerment piece Uptown and his new mural at Southern Tiger Collective.

There’s a reason why you haven’t noticed: the equipment that helps these murals come to life is costly, so Napoletano is patiently waiting for a willing investor interested in making the displays permanent. Building owners, take note …

Until then, he said, they can be viewed three-dimensionally during events such as pop-ups or concerts.

The murals use a custom projection mapping technique, developed by Napoletano and his business partner, Mike Todd, that involves creating the mural in the computer before it gets translated to canvas or a wall. “This allows us to modify the mural in an almost infinite number of ways, more than traditional flat mapping,” Napoletano said.

Napoletano’s women’s empowerment piece. Courtesy of Nick Napoletano

With his women’s empowerment piece, seven women’s faces can all talk and move and come to life. The mural has been equipped with hand scanners. “It could note your body movement, simply to connect and track you and respond to your gestures,” Napoletano said. It is sound synced to respond to music; imagine a concert going on around it. “Everything can be beat synced,” he said.

Courtesy of Nick Napoletano

The Solstice Tavern mural functions even better as a three-dimensional object than a two-dimensional object, Napoletano said.

The ribbon patterns surrounding the girl in the mural can move around her.

Photo by Alex Cason

The Southern Tiger Collective mural is part of a series of works Napoletano has been developing that is part of a virtual world and part of a meditative practice. He’s calling the pieces within the series “totems” and this piece is connected to virtual pieces.

It was actually designed with health applications in mind.

“If people are going through chemo,” he said. “You can take these tools and put people through this world to help alleviate a lot of the strain their body is going through,” he said. “It makes sense when you can see it in headset and experience it in virtual reality.”

Napoletano said he was brainstorming with his business partner, Todd, when the idea to create this type of art occurred to them. Todd is a programmer by trade, and Napoletano has a CAD programming background.

“It was a natural synthesis of my weird background and his weird background,” he said. “We wanted to see what would happen here.”

He added, “The initial driver was trying to come up with a language that was relevant to today’s youth. Everything is built for someone with a 15 to 30-second attention span. This is a way to try and have everybody easily dialogue with content that might be otherwise overlooked. You might see a mural and people might not be willing to engage with the content. A lot of the work I do is trying to put up positive change in one space or another.”

Photo by Alex Cason

What’s next for the mural artist that is already reinventing the art world one mural at a time? He can’t say too much yet, but it involves yoga and meditation, so stay tuned. He’s also got other large augmented pieces in the works, including one funded with a grant from the Knight Foundation that will be created on mobile panels and maybe even a box truck.

In October, Napoletano will be part of “The Talking Walls” festival, which will include an augmented mural by Napoletano. He and 15 local, regional and international artists will be creating murals during the festival.

“The goal is to try to continue to make Charlotte a little more weird, using some stuff that’s pretty innovative,” he said. “At the end of the day, you need to let people that are pushing the envelope and innovating contribute to the local feel of the entire aesthetic. Letting people who have tethers to this place and the arts market unleash on a city is what makes a city memorable.”

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