In Guatemala, old school buses from the U.S. are repurposed as the main form of public transportation in rural areas. Often times, live animals are accompanying the passengers in their travels; this is why they are referred to as “chicken buses”.
When we were talking about street art in class, I was reminded of how awestruck I was as a visitor to Guatemala to see these brightly colored buses travelling through the mountains. Unlike street art, which is temporary, these buses are painstakingly painted so that their colors will last for decades. Sure, in the United States we see lots of colorful advertising on our city buses in the states, but that is different. These were painted for the sole purpose of decoration. That is ART!
Here is a link that takes you to Paul Guyer’s acrylic rendition of the explosion of color on an old school bus. I think that Paul Guyer does a great job in his painting of capturing the feeling of these buses.
Keep in mind I am not talking about graffiti here, these buses are elaborately and skillfully painted in primary and secondary colors that are very noticeable because of their intensity and saturation. The contrast between the colors used is very pronounced which seems to make the bus jump out at you (advance) and implies movement. The contrast of the brightly painted school bus against the neutral browns and greens of the landscape make the buses even more noticeable. If color is used to evoke emotions, then the full range of human emotions are riding through Guatemala on the side of an old school bus. Many times the bus has a name as if it has taken on a life it’s own.
Born and raised in the Midwest my eyes had never seen this type of Art. My colleagues who live in Guatemala didn’t even notice the buses, whereas I just couldn’t take my eyes off of them. Funny how your culture shapes your impression of what is Art. I was seeing this art differently than they were. This was the first time I had ever seen school buses painted this way; it struck me as ironic that you can still see that they are school buses and the artist does not try to cover that up at all.
- Is this a single person who paints the bus, or is it a group project with many people contributing?
- Did the artist(s) who painted the bus get fame and recognition for their work? Or were they anonymous?
- What do they use as an inspiration? I couldn’t help to think that the colors probably had some significance beyond the visual impact (Mayan culture is prevalent in Guatemala and the use of colors may signify different villages, etc. ) .
My experience with the school buses showed me that Art is all around us. We just need to try to see it!