Artist teaches by infusing freedom into graffiti

July 18, 2011
By Chris Saunders

Carlleena Person ’07 cites Pablo Picasso as an influence. It’s not his art she emulates as much as it is his philosophy when he said, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”

Person, who began her career in Charlotte as an artist in 2008 , has taken to painting murals in the Queen City. She uses egalitarian strokes by inviting the community – especially children – to paint on the buildings with her.img_15152

“Kids are natural artists,” she says. “When they become an adult, the world will put restrictions on them. I try to be that freeing auntie, if you will.”

Attempting to eradicate the fear of being wrong, Person tries to nurture creativity and let children know it’s alright to get paint on them, something she says she tries to get adults to also realize.

“I think painting drops the barrier for a lot of people,” she says. “I get a kick out of seeing their faces when they say, ‘I can paint on this.'”

When Person was little, she entertained herself by copying and drawing cartoon and comic book characters. Growing up in New Jersey, her appreciation for art soon included the scenes painted in subways and on buildings around her. And the murals she paints today — on buildings and on children’s bedroom walls — pay homage to the art that appeals to those who can’t afford to go to galleries or museums.

“People consider graffiti a crime,” she says, “but that was my art growing up in New Jersey.”

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