Photo credit: Khadejeh Nikouyeh

‘Vibrant ambiguity’: Artist Dari Calamari is all about trusting the process

The Charlotte Observer

On the side of a South Mint Street building, amoeba-like forms in bright yellows, oranges, blues and greens intermix on the brick canvas. Is that an eyeball? A fish blowing bubbles? Who knows? And that’s the point.

“Heat Waves Can Be Deadly,” painted in 2019 by Dari Calamari, is just one product of the artist’s free spirit. “I don’t plan anything, I just wing it,” she said. “I hoped it would be a vibrant, colorful piece of ambiguity. I wanted people to look at it and think, ‘This is something I haven’t seen before.’”

Watch for Calamari winging it more in the future. After a decade of experiences in other cities and countries, her return home to Charlotte allowed her to achieve her dream of painting murals and she’s now putting her stamp on her hometown — including by painting the ‘R’ in the Black Lives Matter mural on Tryon Street uptown.

Born in Jacksonville, N.C., Calamari, 35, grew up in east Charlotte, eventually moving to Mint Hill with her mother and stepfather. Her father served in the Navy at Camp Lejeune. Siblings and cousins and her grandfather came and went. Though she moved a lot, art was a constant. When she was young, her parents provided her with art sets and sketchbooks. She attended Butler High School in Matthews and started doodling to keep from dozing off.

Home, On a Mission

With a newfound urge to paint a wall herself, in 2018, she moved back to Charlotte. After Googling, “murals in Charlotte,” she read about a project by artist Georgie Nakima and others going up in NoDa, and jumped in her car to check it out. “I was on the wrong street, when I passed a guy painting a mural,” she said. It was artist Nick Napoletano, who reviewed her work and linked her up with another artist, Owl. …

Read the full Charlotte Observer story from May 3, 2023.

Let's Chat!