Saluting the Everyday Artist

By Shyama Parui

The Impressionists? Nope! This is not about the modern works of Picasso nor is this about the exquisite glass art of Dale Chihuly or other famous painters of the past or present. Today, I feel like recognizing the artists who add some pizazz to our otherwise monotonous lives. It's the unknown person who designed the pattern on the coffee cup that you reach for every morning or the creative sand sculpture you saw on the beach last summer.

You don't have to go too far to enjoy the splashes of aesthetic beauty these artists sprinkle in our mundane environment. Regardless of where you are right now, take a quick look around you and see if you can spot what I call “everyday art". The cover of the journal you picked up on an impulse, your teenager's shimmering phone cover, the delicate embroidery on a table cover, the mandala pattern on the mouse pad, or the ikat sofa cover are perfect examples. Even if it is from a bargain store, some colors and patterns seem to have universal appeal showing up on cushion covers, curtains and even as Adam Levine's shirt for his 2019 Super Bowl halftime performance. The internet exploded with images comparing his shirt to matching home décor items, resulting in some hilarious conversation threads on social media.

As the youngest of four sisters, I often became the involuntary shopping companion for my didis (older sisters). After hours spent at Mumbai's Elco market or some of the other popular fashion haunts of the 80's, my patience was rewarded with pani-puri and Frankie rolls (street food). Along with drool-worthy recollections of the food, vivid images of fabrics swaying from store fronts are saved in my mind. Bursting with vibrant colors, weaves and exquisite materials, shopkeepers sold fabrics by the yard produced by humble factory workers and rural artisans alike. These places not only showcased traditional and contemporary designs, but also awakened the hidden fashion designer in us.

What can be easily created with the use of digital technology was once a form of art resulting from painstaking efforts by talented painters. Until the 1980's, Hindi movie posters were hand painted with gigantic images of stars like Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha. Sometimes you could catch a glimpse of these artists adding finishing touches to their posters on billboards as they balanced themselves on the scaffolding. Their work was admired by millions who drove by the city's Western Express Highway and rode the local train on their commute to and from work, yet nobody knew the artist's name or saw their signature. Their job has become obsolete, but the old posters are prized collector's items which perhaps recognizes their contribution to cinema.

If you live in the Charlotte area and have walked on West Boulevard, you may have noticed art on the sidewalk that beautifully illustrates the partnership between the city and her culture. Over ten artists from the Indian community were invited to grab their palette and paintbrush to artistically deliver a crown to the Queen City. The masterpiece that ensued was remarkable making this one of my favorite stories. At the opposite end of the spectrum are the uninvited spray paints and slogans that stain urban structures. That is often the work of mysterious individuals who act stealthily, hidden by darkness. Graffiti has been the expression of art or angst done illegally as a defiant way to seek attention or convey messages using walls, trains or bridges as the canvas. Most people would define it as vandalism, but rebel art can sometimes be more like avant-garde artists who defy accepted genres or styles to bring innovation while tearing down the safety net of conventions.

To appreciate the pièce de résistance from different categories, our only options are to either plan a trip to the museum or pay a fortune to acquire it. Due to distance and financial limitations, it is not a realistic option for most people. We rely on the everyday artist to uplift our mood by getting rid of the bland and the boring with little touches. Their skills may go unnoticed, but it is sorely missed in sterile environments like airplanes and cubicles. I applaud cities that have successfully mixed the two by inviting celebrated artists to create their work for public places thereby making art more accessible to the common man.

Murals brightening up Mooresville downtown and art in and around Uptown Charlotte are examples of such endeavors in the local area. Seattle's Olympic Sculpture Park, a unique institution that blends a museum and a park also comes to mind. What was previously a contaminated brownfield, was transformed into an outdoor sculpture museum and is currently home to some amazing pieces.

I would love to see more bustling metropolitan areas creating similar green spaces inviting the public to simultaneously admire art and get active.

These everyday artists are the unsung heroes of our lives who quietly infuse our surroundings with splendor. Without them, our world would be like the tragic monochromatic landscape that would typically be ignored in a gallery

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Shyama Parui is a long time North Carolina resident and an ardent writer. You can reach her at: shyamashree_parui@hotmail.com