Under The Surface of Beauty
Hello again from the West Coast! My goal here on Sold Magazine is to encourage people to look at a mural like a piece of art hanging on a gallery or museum wall. Street murals are accessible to everyone, but owned by no one. They cannot be held, displayed in a gallery or a museum, stored or transported. Sadly, they are often vandalized.
For the artist, the mural becomes a part of them, it embodies their personality and passions. I encourage the viewer to take in the details, imagine the artists as they battled the weather, tackled the heights, working in solidarity. There is an intention that went into every brush or spray can stroke.
Let's go beneath the "Surface" and get to know East Coast artist, Natasha May Platt AKA Surface of Beauty
Natasha has deep roots in fashion and textile design, incorporating the embroidery and textile traditions of Kolkata, India that influenced her visions. This is important to note when taking in her murals. The delicate flowers and petals are striking on their own but are then complimented with even more natural beauty. Fruits, roots, stems, ivy, vegetable, butterflies and birds are intertwined to create a feeling that cannot be put into words. Taking in her art is very personal, zen like and peaceful, and affects the viewer’s entire body and spirit.
The Echo Parker: Your use of small studio size brushes is part of your workflow despite the size of your project. What is your approach for large-scale murals using this technique?
Surface of Beauty: I use very small brushes when I paint, no matter the size of the wall, because my style is based on layered and visible brush strokes in hundreds of different colors. I build up all my paintings using different strokes of color side-by-side, to almost “sculpt” the object I am painting in the dimensionality of its color. I use the same brush for all the tones and rarely rinse my brush, so a lot of the layering and blending happens directly on the wall as well.
TEP: Interior and exterior murals present physical reaching barriers requiring ladders, lifts and scaffolds. The Ballston Quarter project (Washington, DC), required a creative use of scaffolding. Your IG posts explored this in an entertaining way. How do you plan for precarious locations and what is it like working on heights?
SB: For Ballston Quarter, I was painting two murals on the sides of an up and down escalator, after the escalators had already been installed. It was a very tight space, and the machinery that I had planned on using could not reach past the low ceilings at the entrance of the escalator. The only choice was to use scaffolding constructed at two different heights that would become flat once placed on the stairs. It was a very rickety and shaky operation, and when I stood, the scaffolding rocked back and forth and I had to rock with it. I had a similar issue with a recent project at Maison Marcel in Chicago. The ground under one particular area of the wall was a sloped pavement, and the scaffolding had to be at a 20 degree angle. I had to have someone leaning against the bottom of the scaffolding so it didn’t slide down the hill, and my knees were shaking the entire time. I never painted so fast in my life! I can never plan for these situations because they are always unexpected and no one considers these issues except for the muralist. No one would have looked for or alerted me to sloped pavement, so it’s always the surprise that’s waiting for me that ends up being the scariest part of the project.
TEP: I had the unique perspective of photographing and watching you paint a large scale mural in the heart of DTLA. There was a consistent flow of admirers approaching you with questions and compliments. How do you handle public interaction, and what impact does it have on you when you are working on a public mural?
SB: Hearing people on the street say “good job” or “beautiful” is a huge motivation for me to keep painting for just one more hour, especially when my body is hurting, it’s freezing wind, or the sun is burning me. Those words of encouragement and appreciation are like spiritual fuel, and so much more powerful than food to keep my spirits high and my focus aligned. There have been several instances of harassment and even violence that I have encountered, but I’m happy to say that the positive has far outweighed the negative. Constant feedback and interaction is actually one of the main reasons I chose to be primarily a mural artist rather than a studio artist. I feel art is all about connection and emotional response, and I love that painting murals in public spaces keeps me connected to the experiences people are having with my art.
TEP: Standing in front of your mural I want to lounge on a recliner in a sun room surrounded by Surface of Beauty drapes, wallpaper and upholstery as I inhale and exhale the beauty that surrounds me. Would you consider interior design?
SB: Absolutely, especially since I started my career as a textile designer and continue to view many aspects of my art making process through this lens. I probably wouldn’t want to design all aspects of an interior as I don’t intuitively connect to 3-d objects like furniture, but I am already planning to expand my business to surface design--- including textiles, pillow covers/sheets, and wallpaper. I’m currently in India making big steps towards finalizing my wallpaper supply chain, so stay tuned! I hope to release my first products by the end of the summer, available through my Instagram @surfaceofbeauty.