Sometimes, it takes a tragedy to find clarity in one’s life.
That was the case with commissioned New York City street-artist-at-heart, Kelvin Morel, who likes to be called Kam. The rising Queens-based creative has a passion for conjuring up dynamic, evocative images that he magically transforms into eye-catching murals or canvas masterpieces — with a lot of hard work.
In 2009, Morel was awaiting the birth of his newborn, who sadly didn’t make it. He remembered that the healing process began when he threw himself into his art to get through that tragic loss. He said he hasn’t stopped creating since, while helping others along the way.
“I began selling my pieces through social media and got involved with art events that helped me network in the art business. At the same time, I worked with helping children develop their artistic skills through local events,” he recalled.
Give Kam a blank wall and you can bet he’ll turn it into a work of art. You can see and enjoy his delightful black and white murals, which took months to complete, at a recently opened, Kew Gardens, Queens, eatery called Love’s Kitchen.
“Kam’s work is great! He works with passion and he’s a one-of-a-kind artist,” said owner Andrew Caceres, who told QNS that he and his partner, co-owner Andria Jimenez, “shared with Kam, our vision for the project.”
“This is a second home for everyone in the community. The artwork inside … it’s like being in your home, in your living room,” Caceres added.
While doing what he loves best, Kam earns a steady living by painting homes, apartments and small businesses all over New York. In recent years, the Maspeth resident has been involved with various commissioned jobs for several small businesses in Queens and elsewhere in NYC, where his mural work seems to change the vibe at cellphone stores, barbershops, hair and nail salons, as well as daycare centers. He also paints murals in homes and can even customize sneakers.
At Zuly Beauty Studio, which has locations in Corona, Queens, and Brooklyn, clients love getting their hair and nails done, while taking in the artist’s striking and imaginative images and graphics that grace the walls there. And Kam’s colorful artwork really livens up his local cellphone store.
“Every time I go in to fix my phone, etc., I see this piece I did back in 2017, and it makes me feel so proud of my work and the dedication I had put in with much love,” he said.
“My work is based on my customers’ theme of preference. It all depends on the shop and what type of mural they’re looking for,” Kam explained. “I could work with all types of paint, like acrylic, watercolor or oil, and spray paint. But when I paint on canvas, most of the time, I use acrylic paint because I really love bright, powerful colors.”
“To tell you the truth, it is in my heart to just create something out of nothing,” he added.
The budding artist knew that he loved making art at a very young age, and said he was inspired by his mom and grandma, who told him he had a gift and always encouraged the creative youngster to keep painting. As a Dominican Republic native, who was raised in Ridgewood, Queens, Kam remembered what it was like growing up “in a tough urban environment, where artistic outlets were few and far between.”
So, in his high school years, young Kelvin turned his attention to baseball, instead. In 2012, after starting to pursue his dream of becoming a famous baseball player, a shoulder injury caused the frustrated teen to redirect his attention back to his first love, art. This obsession continues to be a driving force in the artist’s life.
Kam has been involved with free youth events around his community throughout his career. In 2015, he participated in the NYC Police Department’s National Night Out Against Crime event. In 2018 and 2019, the struggling artist shared his work in Conception Art Show exhibitions. Through these events, he would present his art pieces to raise funds and show his support for various causes. Always giving back, the generous creative told QNS that he uses half of his profits to create fun activities for kids in his community and also volunteers to donate toys for the holidays.
Being around street art and underground artists, Kam said he gets inspired by what others create, while always exploring the many ways that he can express beauty, emotion, realism and humor through his artwork. He takes artistic cues from his favorite American artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat – who rose to fame during the 1980s as part of the Neo-expressionism movement – and wholeheartedly agrees with Pablo Picasso’s perspective: “Everything you can imagine is real.”