Street art is gradually coming to be accepted as a legitimate and wonderful art form by more and more people, but that doesn’t mean that street artists can rest on their laurels – they continue exploring with new ways to exploit public surfaces and cover them in beautiful art. This post is all about street artists and regular people who have decorated something that most of us probably wouldn’t think of decorating – public outdoor steps.
Quite a few of these pieces were born out of community efforts, which also shows a growing worldwide acceptance of street art. When the Rainbow steps in Turkey were first painted over by the local government, nearby communities responded by painting their own steps as well in solidarity. The mosaic steps in San Francisco were created by more than 300 local people under the careful guidance of a couple of artists.
Are there any similar steps in your city that are worth sharing? If not, hopefully these images will inspire you to get your community together and paint your steps together! These simply colorful decorations can make the neighbourhood a more uplifting place.
Let’s take together 18 of the most beautiful steps around the world!
A small ancient village in South-Eastern Poland, Zalipie, is home to a charming tradition and definitely one of the country’s top tourist attractions. Not because it has five-stars hotels or massive glass buildings, but on the contrary, due to its small wooden houses, which are painted in the most vibrant colors.
This lovely tradition started with more than a century ago, when every single female resident in Zalipie begun to paint her home with floral motives. Over the years, the flower patterns became gradually more and more sophisticated and the village literally bloomed! Currently, Zalipie is considered one of the most picturesque villages in Poland.
Although no one is completely sure why this tradition began, it seems the reason was the smoke from stoves escaped through little more than a hole in the ceiling of the house. Women would paint over the spots of soot with whitewash. Yet the spots would still be partially visible and it is believed that the women, in order for their house to appear immaculate for religious festivals, took to covering the remnants of soot stains with paintings of flowers. The spreading of this idea may have happened spontaneously throughout the village. Yet I like the idea of a lone woman looking around her kitchen and suddenly having her “Eureka!” moment. And since they didn’t have professionally made equipment, they manufactured the brushes themselves, using hair from the tails of their cows. As or the paint itself, the women used fat from the dumplings they made. Very important is that each year, all the women had to repaint their charming drawings. And they did so, after the Feast of Corpus Christi, when they weren’t so busy with their farm work. Once modern cooking and better ventilation came in to practice, these cover-ups were no longer necessary.
In time, this joyfully and unique habit was passed on from one generation to another. Moreover, women found inspiration in nature and local folklore, so their paintings became both larger and more colorful. Over time, the practice has spread beyond the walls of the cottages too – it seems in Zalipie any immovable object is potentially the site for a florescent flourish. Nothing, it seems, escapes their attention. The chicken coups are painted. The village bridge is painted. The bins are painted. The dog’s cages are painted. Old fountains are painted. Not to mention fences, windows and interior walls. It’s a real delight!
One woman in particular retained and developed the tradition. Felicja Curyłowa (1904 – 1974) became so obsessed with the floral decorations that she covered almost every possible surface of her three-bedroomed cottage with her ornate adornments. Unsurprisingly her beautiful home has been turned into a museum, to be preserved as the epitome of this wonderful folk art. Yet although Curyłowa’s house is beautifully maintained, the art was not created with the aim of attracting visitors. Some of it looks a little worn around the edges – yet these pieces, left to their own devices, are often those which look both the most attractive and authentic.
The perfect time to visit Zalipie is spring, as during this season, since 1948, the village hosts an important contest: the Painted Cottage competition or “Malowana Chata”. Its introduction was part of the movement to help the country psychologically recover from the horrors of the Second World War, in which it saw over 17% of Poland’s population perish.
Zalipie is quite well known to Poles yet tourists from further afield are still something of a novelty for the villagers. They are said to be as curious of their visitors as their guests are about the gorgeous painted cottages of Zalipie. So pay them a visit, maybe? Meanwhile, let’s take a virtual tour.
Afar girl’s eyes, Danakil, Ethiopia by Eric Lafforgue
Well this is one way to walk all over your exes: use them as inspiration for a shoe collection. Artist Sebastian Errazuriz did just that, turning 12 ex-lovers into one wildly imaginative shoe collection.
Errazuriz worked together with Melissa, a shoe company famous for working together with other high-profile designers like Vivienne Westwood and Karl Lagerfeld. While they surely kicked ass, let’s not forget that this probably wouldn’t have been executed to such a degree if it were not for the use of 3D printing. It’s always superb to see art make use of trending technology, there are few relationships I find so symbiotic. The pairing testifies the tech, while also breathes new life into the art. A reminder that sometimes inspiration and ideation can be born out of simply looking to what’s modern (and how that can be exploited).
Each pair is named for one of Errazuriz’s former flames, from “Ice Queen Sophie” to “Heart Breaker Laura” to the “Gold Digger Alison,” and all personify each woman through Errazuriz’s eyes. To add one more emotional layer, the artist wrote small yet-detailed stories about each relationship (note they are NSFW) and how it inevitably ended. Some of the descriptions are beautiful and flattering, while others are not quite as nice. However, they seem like an act of deliberate public self-exposure and sincerity, and I like how this sincerity makes him extremely vulnerable to these women from his past and to judgement, which gives the project a great deal of power.
To me, what makes this project really shine is the writing, the stories or the names that accompany every design. Those tiny tales are little slices of Errazuriz’s life, and without them, I feel the project wouldn’t have been so captivating. There’s a degree of relatability that results in an invitation to the viewer. Rather than search for meaning in every shoe, he hands it to us, neatly wrapped in colloquial regard. It’s a refreshing offering, especially in contrast to all the other art usually on exhibit; sure, the shoes look nice, but it’s the accompanying writing and pictures that deliver the charm and make this project so appealing.
There’s much more to 12 Shoes for 12 Lovers than just the shoes; I believe it could have just as easily been titled “12 Stories for 12 Lovers.” And there’s something for everyone in this offering—whether it be the fashion, the design, the tech, the writing, or the photography. If none of that, Errazuriz manages to at least captivate with something we can all relate to: love and heartbreak. Bear with my pessimism (there’s a light at the end of it), but to me, the project prompts the assumption that life generally goes badly, which in turn aids in the realization of a good relationship being unusual. Errazuriz’s offering is a message to be more appreciative of when things do go your way. People who look at you like maybe you’re magic are rare and hard to find. :) So when you find one, make sure you’ll protect and take care of her/him the best you can. :)
The Wall Street Journal sent several photographers out overnight to shoot New York City during the hours when most of its citizens are sleeping.
Here are photos of those awake when most of the city is not.
Delivery man Rich Lopes carries a stack of newspapers to a vendor on Wall Street at 5:57 a.m. (Keith Bedford for The Wall Street Journal)
A food vendor walks up 11th Avenue near 47th Street. (Ramsay de Give for The Wall Street Journal)
Photojournalist Steve McCurry is best known for shooting one of the most famous photographs ever taken -– 1985′s “Afghan Girl,” an image of a young girl with sea green eyes staring defiantly into the camera. But war and those affected by it are not his only subjects. “Like most photographers, I’m fascinated by people in everyday situations,” he says. “The work I do is mostly wandering and observing human nature and human activity, working and playing and leisure time. As you’re walking around the streets of China, India, New York, whererver -– it is fun to photograph people simply doing things.”
One of his ongoing projects is compiling a collection of photos of people reading, entitled “Fusion: The Synergy of Energy and Words” (Part I and Part II). The idea to shoot photos of people reading was itself prompted by his relationship with legendary Hungarian photographer André Kertész, who was also fascinated with images of people reading. (You can view a gallery here).
McCurry’s photos cross these cultural and socioeconomic boundaries. His personal favorite of his collection is a photo of a young Thai man reading a book while nestled up to the back of an elephant, shot earlier this year (and reproduced below). Among the two dozen images posted online is photo of a group of Chinese men perusing newspapers through a shop window, another of an Afghan shopkeeper reading in his modest stall, and one Italian monks in contemplation with their Bibles.
As a photographer, McCurry is always on the hunt for the “unguarded moment,” that slice of time that reveals something personal and honest. “Reading offers a time for contemplation. Even in Afghanistan, where life is not easy, you notice people in unlikley circumstances reading,” he says. “I have a picture of a man in a manhole (below) -– he was using it as a bomb shelter between air raids — who was reading the book. Reading is something any literate person is drawn to do and it becomes a part of your life. It’s just one of the things that connects us all together, that reminds us that we’re all the same.”
I’m longtime fans of photojournalist Peter Menzel, whose visual anthropology captures the striking span of humanity’s socioeconomic and cultural spectrum. His Hungry Planet portrayed the world’s sustenance with remarkable graphic eloquence, and today I’m turning to some of his earliest work, doing the same for the world’s shelter: Material World: A Global Family Portrait — a beautiful visual time-capsule of life in 30 countries, captured by 16 of the world’s leading photographers.
In each of the 30 countries, Menzel found a statistically average family and photographed them outside their home, with all of their belongings. The result is an incredible cross-cultural quilt of possessions, from the utilitarian to the sentimental, revealing the faceted and varied ways in which we use “stuff” to make sense of the world and our place in it.
Though the book is now 17 years old, it is still relevant and it’s still a curious meta-evidence for the material world we live in. Some of these families may have more today, but the disparity is probably the same in most cases. It still circulates. And for another excellent companion read, see Menzel’s 1998 follow-up, Women in the Material World — a fascinating look at an even more intimate aspect of the human family.
Mali: The Natomo Family
It’s common for men in this West African country to have two wives, as 39-year-old Soumana Natomo does, which increases their progeny and in turn their chance to be supported in old age. Soumana now has eight children, and his wives, Pama Kondo (28) and Fatouma Niangani Toure (26), will likely have more. How many of these children will survive, though, is uncertain: Mali’s infant mortality rate ranks among the ten highest in the world. Possessions not included in this photo: Another mortar and pestle for pounding grain, two wooden mattress platforms, 30 mango trees, and old radio batteries that the children use as toys.