June 2, 2015

Two Artists, Two Quirky Urban Art Interventions

What is the first thing that leaps to your mind while wandering through a city and espying a crack-splattered wall? An exposed-brick wound? A frozen-ripple like pothole on the road? For me, they are signs of not as much a city in disrepair or decline one constantly growing and evolving. In fact, I find the urban and built space to be no less dynamic, fertile, and facinating than a natural habitat - and what I particularly gravitate towards is the intersection of nature and urban in the city. A seedling valiantly emerging from a crack in a wall, a tree's branches reflected in an edifice of glass and concrete, it all suggests that the urban space is an unique eco-system in its own and whose inhabitants - humans, plants, animals, and more - adapt and accordingly co-exist over there. There are so many textures to an urban space and it is something which I have greatly enjoyed observing and photographing over the years.

What I am also passionate about is exploring how we care for and can further beautify the urban space, transforming it into an  accessible, engaging, and enjoyable place to be. When I say beautify, I don't just necessarily mean landscaping/prettification; I am equally interested in interrogating the scope of how we perceive and engage with the urban space. Given that I have only recently lived in cities, Pittsburgh and Delhi, both vastly different in their size, appearance, and character, my desire to understand the dynamics of urban space has nevertheless always been on my mind since I studied   urban geography in school. The interfacing of humans and the built environment and their productions in form of the cities always intrigued me. What does it mean when we walk through the city (if at all, we choose to walk and the city is walker-friendly) while simultaneously and frenetically fulfilling our multiple life chores? Are we simply walking through it, focusing on the destination in our mind or do we occasionally pay attention to the surroundings that we wander past? When we talk about a city's character, does it only repose within its people or its actual physical constitution as well? When I walk through a city, I would like to engage with it through its people, food, conversation, and its physical spaces: the street art on its walls, its architecture, parks and gardens, and little quirks which give it character and individuality. 

That's why I so happily chanced upon these artists, Paige Smith and Juliana Santacruz Herrera via Instagram and Pinterest respectively; both of these artists are performing terrific urban interventions in their cities, seeing these cracks, potholes, and brick wounds as sites of artistic transformation. They are both seeing the city as it is, engaging with its character, and moreover, encouraging the inhabitants to do so as well. Paige introduces artificial rock geodes abstracted from hand-cut paper and resin into nooks and crannies of various cities through the medium of her street art project, Urban Geode while Juliana 'repairs' potholes in Paris with iridescently hued yarn installations.

A rock lover, the appearance and structure of crystals or geodes first captured my attention as a child and have fascinated me since; I have in possession a gorgeous dramatically textured amethyst geode that I bought during my first trip to the States many years ago and one of my most prized discoveries when rock-collecting as a child was discovering a delicately peach and white hued geode in the Omani hills. I loved how Paige Smith is planting these crystals into the otherwise seemingly inert soil of the city's visual landscape and growing them into something so unexpected, beautiful, and startlingly unique; it changes both the very nature of the site as well as the overall bigger surrounding environs. "These installations are like hidden gems sprinkled across the world that invite us to actually look, to be playful and discover and to participate in a glorious and global treasure hunt," is her take on her super whimsical project. 

Juliana Santacruz Herra seemingly heals scars of Parisian potholes (aside: doesn't just prefixing Parisian to potholes make them sound so terribly chic? No? Just me then!) dotting the streets through her bright, cheerful, colorful braided knit art; it must be so delightful to stumble upon these countries of yarn art dotting the otherwise drab, neglected gray sea of asphalt. You can see more of her work over here.

Have you seen a curious, quirky urban art intervention? Did it pause you in your steps to make you consider both the art as well as the environs that you were in? I would love to hear about it!

Images courtesy: Internet