The place where you believe in an infinity of possibilities is the place within ourselves in which we are able to make positive change.
– Callie Curry, aka Swoon
I believe that finding the beauty in the mundane is one of our duties as humans. Though we live in such an amazing world full of wonder, we frequently become desensitized to the magic inherent in our surroundings through the daily grind of life. This is one of the reasons why art is so important: by revealing the allure inherent in banal items and situations, an exciting sense of hopeful possibility is elicited.
This series began with the work of veteran performance artist Marina Abramovic, who showed us the sublime nature of silence. While vastly different in style and practice, Callie Curry — who goes by the artist name, Swoon — gives us a glimpse of the potential beauty in our everyday surroundings through her wheatpaste street art, as well as her other collaborative project efforts, including building sustainable homes in Haiti, and constructing a floating raft in Venice.
Curry is particularly concerned with exploring the realm of possibility that exists within banal urban spaces. Her street art is created with wheatpaste, meaning that she makes large-scale drawings on paper, and pastes them on the sides of buildings in urban areas using wheatpaste. As opposed to the adhesive originally designed to glue wallpaper onto interior walls, the wheatpaste that street artists use usually combines additives that can handle the outdoor elements. Even still, most wheatpaste street artworks will eventually wear down, due to the effects of rain, sun, and mother nature’s wild ways.
Originally beginning as a mere two-month project, Curry has now been displaying her wheatpaste drawings in urban areas for over 10 years. She often draws women from different ethnicities, placing them on the sides of abandoned buildings. Conceptually, this process focuses on how people interact with their urban environment, and the mundane spaces in between.
Initially Curry was attracted to street art because it gave her instant payoff: she can see a boring, vacant building one day, and see her artwork pasted on it the next; visible transformation is immediately achievable. Not only that, but her work has a direct affect on others, too. In her TEDx talk, she speaks about one particular memory of a man with a mild mental handicap who held a particular affinity for one of her drawings on an abandoned building near his home. This usually mundane area quickly became his new favorite place, with an added element of magic from Curry’s wheatpaste drawing. Not only had the building itself been transformed, but so had many people who interacted with its new-found beauty.
The grassroots nature of street art allows this sense of community to occur. This is true from our experiences as passersby stumbling across a wall papered with street art, as well as in our daily lives as consumers. If a product has been created to connect with us through a generally mundane context, there is an opportunity for our eyes to be opened to the beauty inherent in this usually banal circumstance.
The all-natural Soma water filter is one of many examples proving this. Our habits surrounding water blend into our everyday routines, without much thought given to the magic inherent in this life source. It is so easy to forget to appreciate the water that we use on a daily basis because of the very fact that we use it so much. Using the Soma water filter is an easy way to help remind ourselves of the beauty of water. When we choose eco-friendly, well-designed household items, it says a lot about our particular set of values. Pouring water from an hourglass-shaped carafe made from sustainable materials will naturally enhance our relationship with the water we’re using.
Fashion also gives us many examples of revealing the authentic beauty in mundane, everyday items. Perhaps the most mundane of all clothing articles, even socks can be a fascinating part of our wardrobe if we pay them enough heed. It’s all about our perspective on the aspects of our lives that usually fly by without us giving them much thought. Likewise, practicing mindfulness can help us to discover this beauty in the boring. When it comes down to it, works of art, sustainable design, and fashion are most effective and memorable when they are seen to reflect the beauty inherent in our everyday lives.
Swoon’s wheatpaste art is about exploring and exposing the possibilities inherent in mundane spaces. It encourages us to expand our minds about our own potential for beauty and hope, feelings through which all humans are connected to one another. Our amazing resilience born from being able to endure so many disasters, personal traumas, and difficult situations is buoyed by the hope found in the world’s beauty. There is perhaps no other emotion more vital to our survival: being able to maintain our visions a brighter future gives us the ability to re-group, re-imagine, and re-make both ourselves and our world in the face of myriad challenges.
What are you feeling the need to re-imagine and re-make? How can you change an aspect of your life, or your community by using the talents you have to reveal the beauty in the mundane?
Speak softly, but carry a big can of paint.