Tarsila Schubert never received any formal art training, but her work has appeared all over the world.
Now, her colorful murals are displayed on a wall near an underpass at 48th Street and 25th Avenue in collaboration with a local nonprofit. The organization called 501 (See) (Streets) was started by Queens resident Noah Sheroff. The community group aims to enhance and beautify neighborhoods through art, and Sheroff invites a rotating roster of artists to paint murals across different neighborhoods.
Schubert, who is originally from Brazil and now lives in Dubai, met Noah through a mutual friend when she visited New York recently. She became involved with street art in 2011 and moved to Dubai in 2012, where she noticed a lack of public art. She said many of the people who visit Dubai are there mostly for business, which makes it difficult to establish a strong art scene.
After hearing complaints about the lack of green space and the “superficial” look of the city, she decided to introduce colorful landscapes to its walls.
“Dubai is known for its moderns skyscrapers, luxury and Islam religion,” Shubert said. “What people do not know is that there are many abandoned and poor areas as in any big city, where low-income workers live. My idea was to bring art to these places and try to make it a more welcoming, warm and cultural space, because it is where people who are away from their country of origin lives and they have to work hard to survive without much access to leisure and culture.”
In Dubai, her murals also portray women because Schubert wants to challenge the idea that all Islamic countries treat women poorly.
“At least in Dubai, for being an international city, I did not suffer any prejudice for being a female street artist,” Schubert said. “Dubai is a city that has a wide variety of cultures and nationalities living together in peace, and all this influenced me artistically.”
In Astoria, her mural is bright, colorful and depicts free-form shapes, which contrasts strongly with its surroundings – train tracks used by Amtrak, houses, auto repair shops and warehouses.
“My art is made with feelings and emotions, and leaves them on the streets,” Schubert said. “It’s a way to share it with people. Street art enriches the city in cultural terms. The real idea of street art [allows artists to] contribute [to] the community with free access for everybody [despite] age, social class, religion, nationality or gender.”
Artists participating in 501 (See)(Streets) have painted murals in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Mount Vernon and more. This mural was co-sponsored by Councilman Costa Constantinides and U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley.
To learn more about 501 (See)(Streets) or to donate, visit the organization’s website.