By Jeffery L Carey, Jr.
In Flint artist Pauly Everett’s work, a mixed media mash-up of pop culture icons and comic book details are delivered in exuberant primary colors and a hip-hop street art flavor. He calls his signature style “city psychedelic art,” and from his crowded, bright studio, Everett, 29, has established himself not just as a maker of vivid canvases but also as a community-spirited benefactor of art for local kids and a fixture of downtown energy.
In his studio at the corner of Beecher and Corunna roads, Everett moves fluidly, a piece unfolding as the radio plays Madlib, Otis Jackson, a blend of hip hop and old sounds. He says he plays music from the time he gets up until he goes to bed.
He says his commitment to art is related to what it does for people. For those with anxiety or depression — or for anybody, for that matter — “it can make folks happy. It’s just all in all good for the soul.”
Born at Flint Orthopedic Hospital, a revelation to him after digging out his birth certificate during the interview, Everett is the son of Anthony Everett, who still lives in town, and Tina Pinkerton, who lives in Greenbush. He has two older brothers and two younger brothers, and he says family members are close and really supportive and into the arts and music. His brother Phillip died at 24 last year.
Everett recalls working on his own art in elementary school, but admits he did not become more serious about his art until middle school.
Everett refers to his early work as, “cartoony stuff like giant turtles crushing cityscapes, just weird shit.” He describes this while flipping the painting upside down and working in more lines of what are becoming roses around a sugar skull, a Mexican-Catholic folk art decoration traditionally made of sugar and representing a departed soul.
It was in high school though where Everett fell into experimenting with the styles prevalent in his work today. He says he spent his formative years in exercises of abstract and psychedelic art, all on his own and with no formal training. Now he says he fashions his work by whatever subject matter takes him at the moment.
“Don’t know what you would call it,” he ponders as his paint marker eddies around the panel, “it’s recognizable.”
He concedes much of his work is designed around whatever colors of paint he has on hand. He works with latex, acrylic and sometimes oil paint either donated to him or left over from other projects. While he calls his work “psychedelic,” he doesn’t do acid; rather, in an email he characterizes his paintings, like other “psychedelic art,” as “colorful, loud, strange and purdy.” He wants people to have fun with it, especially children, whom he says he tries to teach “to not be shy and to have fun, because painting can be a lot of fun, especially to a youngster that’s never painted.”
The stream of repurposed paint keeps the buckets from otherwise being wasted and allows Everett to paint up to three paintings a day at times. “I’ll squeeze in a few paintings a day if I’m by myself,” he says while his hand continues to bring out the details on the sugar skull.
It’s a commission for Dave Hamilton, he explains, a singer-songwriter for the band, Happy Curmudgeons. “He wanted it lavender and pink and shit,” he adds with a smile, in his freewheeling, cheerfully salty style. He notes the color scheme was not his usual.
Everett says he does not use his art for political purposes. Deliberately leaving his pieces untitled, he says he allows viewers of his work to have their own experience with his work and to apply their own meaning.
“I stay clear of that political shit,” he says. “There is a time and place for it, but it’s not my favorite shit.” Still he does enjoy using his art at times for social awareness, which he does not consider “political.” One of his many recent exhibits, at Buckham Gallery in downtown Flint, for example, focused on the water crisis.
His humanitarian work and involvement with the community recently drew the attention of Syrah Scott of the New York-based National Clean Water Collective (NCWC) who asked him to spearhead a community project in Flint.
Everett agreed to work on a mural with water-based and Flint themes at the Flint Police Activities League (PAL) building at 2201 Forest Hill Ave. Asked about the call from the NCWC, he says, “Obviously I’m going to say yeah,” and offered to donate his time.
Though Everett was not paid for the mural that spans a 30-foot wall, he did receive an award at the PAL Earth Day #Just Clean It Jamboree held at the PAL Corp Haskell Youth Center. The NCWC presented Everett the award, a heavy piece of blue and clear glass shaped like a drop of water, for art, his contribution to the community and for his continued work with Flint youth.
“I do the work for free, because it’s for the kids,” Everett said, adding it is a “win-win,” because he gets to paint and “teach a little.” As for the PAL Corp Haskell Youth Center, Everett remarked with a grin, “the place needs more rad shit going on.” He hopes to raise enough money through potential crowd funding to do another series of murals in the center’s gymnasium.
In addition to his work with kids at Flint schools like Eisenhower Elementary, Carpenter Road Elementary and at the Applewood Series, Everett is part of Flint Underground, a loosely organized clan of artists and musicians who like to hang out and “have a good time with the arts,” he said. He coordinates the Churchhill’s Food and Spirits participation in the popular downtown Art Walk held the second Friday of the month from 6 p.m.to 2 a.m. The monthly event takes place at various locations.
Like his other community endeavors, Everett doesn’t receive any money for his promotion of the event. He said the gathering itself is a reflection of his art, as the show includes local artisans’ work, paintings, drawings and music infused with collaboration and what he called, “healthy socialization.”
Everett’s work has been shown at Buckham Gallery, the Greater Flint Arts Council (GFAC), The Good Beans Café, the Elated Flute Foundation, Red Ink of Flint, the Spiral Gallery in Grand Rapids, multiple shows in Detroit and most recently in Harrisburg, PA. “That show nearly sold out,” he says, as he sits the sugar skull painting down, examines it for a moment then rests it on his legs before going back into the lines with his paint marker. “I met some cool people in Harrisburg too; it’s all about going out to strange places and figuring shit out.”
With the sugar skull nearly complete, Everett describes the feeling he gets when he finishes a painting. “It’s cool, you know. Sometimes I get an indescribable feeling. You surprise yourself sometimes. Doesn’t happen all the time, it’s a blue moon situation. You have to step outside your comfort zone for that shit to happen.” With that he sits back from the painting and takes a good look.
“It’s good medicine for everyone,” he says, “it’s universal good medicine.”
EVM staff writer Jeffery L. Carey, Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.