published Monday, June 16th, 2014

Moment: Muralist energizes wall

Mural artist Joseph Giri, 56, creates his brand of public art on raw concrete walls. Giri's latest work in Chattanooga is an eye-popping interpretation and message designed to give passers-by a hint that they need a doughnut from Koch's Bakery on Broad Street.

The location of Giri's effort draws the eye of northbound travelers headed toward downtown from Lookout Mountain. The canvas is a curtain wall and a small square storage building made of concrete block. The visual graphic encompasses a 15-foot-high by 70-foot-wide space.

With dozens of bristled brushes, Giri sketched his creation on the rough wall last week while dodging a mixture of cloudbursts and sun.

The southpaw painter leaned over the edge of his rented hydraulic lift in cargo shorts and Crocs, perched beneath a flimsy beach umbrella. Then he scuffed on the most brilliant colors with a brush so worn, it was surprising that he did not reach for a newer one.

"I wanna smack you upside the head with it, but in a good way," Giri said of his art.

"It's about bumping the energy level up," he said. "I've got these cool background colors, and I'm purposely using warm colors on top of it ... so the doughnuts jump off that cool background."

Giri lives in rural northeast Alabama. But he is not a regional artist.

"I did public art (in California) for 18 years," he said. As one of his first jobs, the outdoor artist worked with a redevelopment agency on the coast to help improve the visual appeal of a neighborhood in Long Beach.

Soon after, that same redevelopment agency took the whole block he lived on and paid all of the renters to move. That is when he moved back to Alabama near where he went to school as a child.

Giri described his work outdoors as "kind of a performance, in a way ... because someone is always looking at you. They'll come between my vehicle and the wall there ... in my personal space," he said.

The key to his being a mural painter?

"Keep your energy up, but keep your mellow on while painting," he said.

  • photo
    Mural artist Joseph Giri, of Nances Creek, Ala., climbs down from his lift last week with Koch's Bakery doughnut sketches in hand. He is painting this 15- by 70-foot wall facing West 20th Street.
    Photo by Tim Barber.
    enlarge photo

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