My first public art project -it was an amazing experience and so much fun!
Going into this project my intent was to combine something Indian with the spirit of Ithaca. I decided to incorporate symbols of Warli art (see below for some background on Warli art), and have tried to interact with the viewer who will be able to identify some of Ithaca features while trying to appreciate a different art form.
The electrical box is at the intersection of N. Cayuga & Court St in Ithaca. Stop by to look if you are in the area!
The Warli people are an indigenous tribe living in the state of Maharashtra in western India; many still live on the northern outskirts of the city of Mumbai. The brick red and white paintings of the Warli tribe decorate the walls of their houses. The paintings are simple and distinct, and are considered an ancient prevailing art. Basic shapes – triangles, squares, circles, and crooked lines – are used to depict complex scenes, such as wedding, field harvest, celebration, dance, musicians, nature, landscapes, farming, animals, rituals. The art is really a depiction of how the community lives, celebrates, hopes, and supports. There is nothing abstract in the depiction, and still it leaves room for you to recreate the atmosphere of happiness and music in your mind.
Ithaca is home to people from diverse backgrounds and a lot of flux. The beauty and hospitality of the town, and its natural beauty win the hearts of anyone who cross their paths here. At the same time, the town is enriched by the uniqueness of all the people who come and go, and the many who continue to stay on. When I saw the request for proposals for the utility boxes, I felt using Warli art would be a perfect medium for me to blend the symbolic features of the tribal art while capturing and celebrating the welcoming spirit of Ithaca and the commons. To me, there is an unbroken line from early tribal art forms such as Warli to today’s street art.
The Process and pictures
This electrical box is a new installation, so I did not need to worry about removing existing old paint which probably saved some initial surface prepping time. The first step was to prime the boxes with an appropriate metal primer (Thanks to Caleb and the other artists for this!). This is how the boxes looked after priming, ready to get some real color on them!
Next we rolled on the base coat color. This was also my first time using a foam roller for paint application. And thanks to Sid’s skill at getting the most even base coat, it ended up saving a lot of brushing time. I sketched out a basic outline of what I wanted to make. There was quite a bit of improvisation at this step which continued all along till I was done with the mural. I had not anticipated how or how much I would modify ideas as I went along- but it certainly made the process more challenging and fun.
Some more thoughts on the experience and some pictures capturing the evolution of the work.
Also check out the work of other artists on the Ithaca mural website.