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A bird, a bowl of soup or chess on the street

A chance trip to Santa Barbara changed her outlook towards art and with it her life. American artist Tracy Lee Stum has since travelled to 24 countries, armed with coloured chalk and pastels, to liven up pavements and street corners with her 3D street art.

On her fourth visit to the city earlier this week, Stum wowed everyone with a live demonstration of her art on a pavement next to Studio21.

“I had gone for a degree in fine arts and had planned to become a conventional painter. But when I came across a street-art festival outside the Santa Barbara Mission, where nearly 150 artists were participating, I realised what I really wanted to do,” said Stum, as she put the finishing touches to the etching of a bird.

Stum also gave onlookers an insight into 3D art. “Things close to you are drawn small and those far from you bigger. That is how a camera perceives things. It’s like drawing in reverse,” she said. Inspection of the work area, a plan of her art and photography are what she relies on.

As she drew, a crowd of curious onlookers gathered around her, watching her and taking pictures. Stum interacted with them and even stroked a stray puppy in between.

“I create a stage where people can enjoy and interact. My artworks have a life of their own. I try to use the environment around me,” she explained.

“This is a performance-based art form, like watching a musical. It is about sharing the process of the making of art. The ephemeral nature of my work is what attracted me to it. So what happens after I am done with it does not concern me.”

The live demonstration was followed by a one-hour presentation at Studio21 by the artist on her work and experiences. Street art, for Stum, is “the coolest art form to dabble with”. “Through my art I am not just manipulating the space but also manipulating the dynamics and engaging people. I enjoy adding humour to my art,” she said, taking the select audience on a tour of her work from drawing a game of monopoly in Atlanta City to creating an irresistible bowl of wanton soup in Bangkok.

Stum showed the audience how she turned a sidewalk into a three-dimensional bridge or the Grand Canyon.

One of the visuals Stum shared with the audience at Studio21 had a spectator posing with one of her works of The Dalai Lama playing chess.

She ended her presentation with a tip for artists and art lovers in Calcutta. “You guys have tonnes of amazing unused space. It would be good to see more such art work here and maybe a street painting festival,” she said.