Inside the Head of "Mad Cheez" Artist Curtis R. Smith

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If the whole "law of attraction" and power of positive thinking mumbo-jumbo pimped in books like The Secret really work, then local artist Curtis R. Smith is about to make it big. That's because in modern hip-hop lingo, the names of his signature characters Stack Bread, Mad Cheez, Mad Paper and Make It Rain all translate to one thing: a boatload of money.

But before he lands his dream gig penning a show on late-night animated television and makes subsequent millions, Curtis has to make it through his first gallery showing in an exhibit titled "An Imperfect World" this Friday night at Gallery Celtica on downtown's Roosevelt Row. 

Sculptured toy versions of his creations will be on display, along with handcrafted furnishings and funky art prints including one that plays off of the inevitable comparison of his angry-looking fromage to another holey yellow cartoon character.

"I've got Mad Cheez on hats and T-shirts and two out of ten customers always ask if that's Sponge Bob. I do not like Sponge Bob, and you can quote me on that!!" quips Smith. "[Mad Cheez] doesn't look like a sponge to me at all."

Tell Smith his lineup looks like something out of Cartoon Network's [adult swim], on the other hand, and he'll take the compliment.

Despite his artwork's urban hip-hop appeal, the self-taught artist admits he draws inspiration from staying up to watch late-night animated shows. "If I could do an Aqua Teen Hunger Force or Squidbilles type show, that would be mind-blowing," Smith tells New Times. "I would jump at the opportunity to do that."

With a similar audience in mind, he rented a booth at Phoenix ComicCon this year and met with thousands of comic book geeks and costumed freaks that strolled through the author aisles. It was an "eye-opening experience" for Smith, who sells his branded clothing internationally but still works on comic books and furniture designs on his kitchen table.

Hey, even The Secret takes time to work.

Fow now, Smith is happy to design prototypes by hand, sawing wood and painting for a table-sized block of cheese or cutting out strips of fabric for a plush Stack Bread beanbag chair his mom sewed together.

He checked out First Friday last month and decided it was the perfect platform to introduce the new creations to locals, even if he is a little nervous about having his first-ever gallery showing. 

"I have no idea what to expect because I've never done something like this before," Smith says. "But I want to see the face of the person that wants to purchase my art."

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