Northeastern grad paints faces on Boston street
Christy Charlot, a graduate of the Northeast, loves dysmorphic faces.
Distorted faces – one face, split in half, then split in three.
Hundreds of these faces emerge on a large utilitarian box on Huntington Avenue in Boston in a mural painted by Charlot. And almost every one of them is smiling.
“I started drawing faces ever since I learned to draw a circle,” explains Charlot. “I love drawing faces because something that every human being has in common is a face. A face is a centerpiece of every living species and I think it’s very unique and extraordinary, so I highlight a lot in my drawings. Same for eyeballs, teeth and limbs.
Charlot, 26, a 2020 Northeastern graduate who majored in psychology, was commissioned by the city of Boston to paint a mural on the box on the sidewalk near Cargill Hall at Northeastern’s School of Law. The “sentimental” project began in early August and is expected to be completed by October 1.
Charlot’s utility box mural is called “Public Housin'”. This is a cartoon rendition of the public housing project she grew up in, Franklin Hill in Dorchester, less than 4 miles from the utility box.
“Growing up in social housing had a very big impact and had a strong effect on me because it was a different experience compared to me being in the real world and hanging out in high end environments,” said Charlotte. “Nevertheless, I enjoyed my time living in my community because everyone who lives near me has a unique personality and is down to earth in their own way.”
Charlot gave the nearly 5-foot-tall utility box two coats of white paint, then penciled the mural on all sides of the box. After painting black outlines on the mural in pencil, Charlot began to bring the mural to life by splattering bold, colorful paint strokes in red, pink, brick brown, green, and gray.
In addition to many faces, the mural features glowing eyes, basketballs, sneakers, bricks, and many pictures within pictures.
“It’s a cartoon version of what I see,” says Charlot.
“I drew the HLM community, the interacting neighbors, the positive side. People talk and play, play basketball, lots of basketball,” she said.
Amber Torres, public art manager for the city of Boston, said she’s a big fan of Charlot’s work.
“There’s a uniqueness to her style, the way she fills spaces,” Torres says.
“His article on social housing is incredible. It looks like chaos, but if you look closer you can see it. It makes you think,” Torres says. “His work suits the paint box perfectly.”
Charlot is one of 91 artists currently involved in the “paintbox” program, Torres says. There were 171 applicants to the program this year, and a selection committee chose the finalists. Torres, a member of the judging panel, said the program aims to give new public artists a boost.
“This project is aimed at emerging artists, so we tried to give priority to new artists,” says Torres. “It serves different purposes for artists, depending on where they are in their journey.”
Charlot is an emerging artist. She recently painted a mural inside the Legal Greens dispensary in Brockton, Massachusetts. She is developing a website to sell her works and expects it to be online in September. She also publishes some works on her Instagram account.
Charlot, who also works as a sales and service representative at a Boston gymnasium, would like to make art her full-time career. She’s created artwork for an organization called STEAMid, and she’s in the process of releasing a new project called “Welcome to the Skreets” which will feature her characters interacting in different street environments. Charlot says she would like to create more interior murals and artwork of her characters on canvas.
His attraction to art started early. She remembers the white and blue dress she wore at her christening and “the contrasting colors caught my attention”. Today, she enjoys using bright, bold colors in her murals. “I play with the visual senses,” she says.
When she was in second grade and started cursive calligraphy, she liked to play with different fonts. She has since created a few, which she says would be considered calligraffitis.
In the third year, Charlot began to draw characters. And his obsession only grew.
“I didn’t think I was good at it, I thought everyone was doing it,” says Charlot, who is of Haitian descent.
The first time she realized people liked her work was in high school, at Cathedral High School in Boston, where she was born and raised.
Charlot made a black and white pencil drawing on 14 by 18 inch paper. Half of the drawing was a social housing scene, with a man talking to a young woman and Hennesey bottles on the floor. On the other side was a man in a formal suit with a nicely dressed woman on a date in an elegant setting and he was holding the door for her. Charlot’s English teacher saw the drawing, loved it and wanted to keep it.
Art was an escape for her, Charlot says, because she was bullied from elementary school through high school.
“It just calmed me down, blocked people calling me names,” Charlot says. “I drew to take my mind off things.”
Charlot says she sees characters in her dreams. “And when that happens, I run to my pad. When I wake up in the morning, I work on my art. I always have my notepad with me,” she says.
The main character in her “Public House” mural is “Threso,” she says, who, of course, has three faces in one.
Focused on Boston’s hallways and main streets, paintbox pays artists $200 before starting the project, then $300 upon completion. The city tries to paint about 100 utility boxes, which belong to the Boston City Department of Transportation or Department of Public Works, each year.
“There’s no counting how many boxes there are in the city right now, thousands I guess,” Torres said.
When she’s painting the utility box, Charlot says, people often stop and ask questions about the project.
“Most people tell me it looks cool, nice, nice; and they can’t wait to see it finished,” says Charlot. “Another large amount of people ask if they can take a picture. Then a few people asked me how I got this opportunity or was I just randomly painting on the box.
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