In October, Mark Doepker was driving his VW bug Uptown when a man accosted him and destroyed a piece of his art — a Black Lives Matter cube he'd installed to the top of the car.
Doepker said the man, John Schmidt, who owns Midtown Search Group LLC, a boutique executive staffing company, had a problem with the message.
"He told me I was creating a disturbance in his city, and then he used the 'N' word" in place of Black when referring to BLM, according to Doepker. "I said, 'I'm creating the disturbance?' We almost got into a fight. But I wasn't going to give him a fight."
Schmidt was later arrested and will face Doepker in court Feb. 10.
We thought we'd catch up with Doepker, 40, to see what he's been up to — art-wise and otherwise — since the encounter.
Creative Loafing: Have you had your life threatened for your art lately?
Doepker: I've had several vulgar remarks and middle fingers. For some reason, some people around here can't believe a white boy would have this kind of art on his car. But I get much more positive reactions than negative stuff. I can count the negative things I've heard on one hand, but for the most part, people really like it. One woman reached into the window and hugged me at a stop sign. Another woman bought me gas at a gas station.
But I am more careful now. Before that guy broke the piece off my car, I was seeing only the good things. But then I started getting prepared for the opposite reaction. I think we can all learn from what this guy did. My recommendation to the court was to have the guy accompany the sculpture to a college campus so he can sit next to it and have students ask him why he did it. They could play the newscast of it on a screen next to him.
You're from Michigan. Can you imagine this happening there?
There's racism everywhere. I went home for Christmas, and not far from where I grew up there's a rebel flag flying. I don't know why someone from Michigan would fly a rebel flag. But it does seem to be amped up here in the South.
I was working a job here where my coworkers were good ol' boys, and they knew racism got under my skin, so they took it as far as they could.
What are you working on right now?
I want to expand from the portraits I do, which are 18-by-22 inch drawings, into larger wall sculptures. I have a show up right now until Feb. 8 at Gallery 27 in Lincolnton, and then after that, I'd like to put together an entire show of 8-feet-tall portraits.
They're basically straight from my drawings, which I do using live models — all real people you may know or you've seen around Charlotte. I have two [of the sculptures] up at Aerial Charlotte across from McColl Center uptown. I had wanted to have another new one done for the show in Lincolnton, but scheduling got in the way. I hope to enter a couple of them in a March show at Hart-Witzen.
Must be a pain in the ass carrying them around in your little bug, no?
I make them to fit into my car. A woman from Nebraska bought two of them and it took three big crates to get them there.
With a new president who's basically condoned racist behavior, do you think the more ominous political environment will have a big effect on art in Charlotte?
It already has. The show that I have and the shows of other artists I know – we've incorporated it into our work. I was part of a show at UNCC that had to do with the protest. Everything was about the election and the protests and the racial undercurrents.
So we can assume you'll continue speaking out in your artwork, right?
Of course, the latest piece I've done is of a woman who has a big natural afro and the title is, 'Don't Touch Her Hair." I have a friend who tells me stories about how people try to touch her hair or pet her, so I wanted to do something about that. And I named it "Don't Touch Her Hair," not "Don't Touch My Hair." I wanted it to be me saying it.