Christine Lutfy has a passion for creating public art. The Columbia native loves producing murals that bring people joy and hope.
By Katherine Pettit
Wander into nooks and crannies around the Midlands and you may find yourself facing a mural that is nostalgic, or perhaps evocative of the times in which we live.
“Creating one-of-a-kind murals is my favorite thing to do,” Christine Lutfy explained. “It’s my life and I live to create.” The artist enjoys putting light in dark places, looking at the world through a surreal lens that brings bright, colorful, feel-good memories back into the viewer’s core.
Recently, I wandered through several of her creations and realized that my veterinarian’s office includes a dog and cat painting in her signature style. For now, however, she is focusing her energies on public art. It’s a passion that began young.
“I remember two of my first presents,” she mused. “I received a baby easel and a Fischer Price pottery wheel. I’ve been obsessed ever since.” As she grew, there were those who inspired and encouraged her. “My grandmother always painted and had stacks of paintings beside her piano. She was very creative and encouraged me to be an innovative visionary.” Christine says that her grandmother’s paintings “were a big tipping point to what I wanted to create when I first began to paint.”
At Cardinal Newman High School, her art teacher, Mrs. Allen, was another positive influence. “I was too much of a talker to be a good student, but she inspired me then and still does today,” Christine said. “She is a ceramics goddess.”
She admires the work of Salvador Dali (her all-time favorite) and the color Mark Paul Deren (aka MadSteez) brings to his realism.
She says John Schiro, her art studio professor at Coastal Carolina University, inspired her to create from the heart. “There was something about living at the beach during those college years that gave me an appreciation for light and brightness,” she said.
It shows in her work. “I LOVE vibrant, bright colors,” Christine said. “Color matching is one of my favorite things to do when planning a mural.”
So how did murals become a major focus? “My passion for murals started in 2016 when an artist who was living in New York came back to Columbia, his hometown, and asked me to take a mural tour with him,” Christine said. “I was ecstatic and immediately began to work with him. Together, we created six murals in Columbia, and one large-scale mural in Charleston in memory of the nine lives that were tragically lost at the Mother Emanuel Church.”
To date, Christine has created more than 20 murals in Columbia and nearby towns. They’ve been mostly solo creations with a few collaborations. Her goal is to broaden her market and start creating pieces in other cities, but first she’s got more work to do right here. And it’s not a simple process.
“There’s so much more that goes into creating murals than just slapping some paint on the wall,” she said. “You must research surface types before you pick your exterior paint, and hours of mock-ups are required. Outside temperature makes a difference, too. The work can strain your body with the scaffolds and ladders required, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
She has created murals in homes as well, including a Gamecock-themed piece, the bottom of a pool, and will soon be working on a Lake Murray scene. For those creations you can visit, check out the alley off of State Street. You become part of the scene, with super-tall giraffes, kayaks, flowers, and the iconic Gervais Street Bridge.
“That is my favorite mural,” Christine said. “I had 30 days to complete it during July’s heat and used all those days. My inspiration came from beloved places in West Columbia and for me, the bridge connects our two cities together. We should all stay connected, no matter what our differences.”
That’s a theme repeated in one of her murals envisioned by John Moylan, owner and founder of Home Advantage on Devine Street. It highlights “Unity” and includes these words: “Columbia, We’re all in this together.”
At Immersion Art Center off of Main Street, she created a touchable beach scene. And the giant honeybee on the side of Rosewood Market was requested by owner Bryan Tayara to bring a bit of sweetness to 2020, a year which has brought so much difficulty to the world.
How has life influenced her work? “Ah life. Life is a crazy thing because it is so uncertain,” she said. “You can’t take life for granted and every family has hardships, including mine. I have chosen the route of uncertainty and it’s the most exhilarating.” Christine believes she was meant to create and the bright colors and optimistic painting style have much to do with being broken during certain times in life.
The results are remarkable. So, if you find yourself dashing through an alley or sitting outside a restaurant or business and see a mural, it may have come from Christine Lutfy’s artistic mind and hands. Pause to enjoy the scene. Your heart will lift and you’ll be glad it’s happening in our capital city.