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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Paint the town: Australian street artist tours US

LEXINGTON, Ala. – Imagine taking a three-month tour of the United States and being allowed to use the sides of old barns as a paint canvas.

That’s what one woman from Australia is doing. The woman, a street artist who uses the name Kaff-eine, just spent a couple of weeks in Lexington touring the area and painting designs on barns. ...

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LEXINGTON, Ala. – Imagine taking a three-month tour of the United States and being allowed to use the sides of old barns as a paint canvas.

That’s what one woman from Australia is doing. The woman, a street artist who uses the name Kaff-eine, just spent a couple of weeks in Lexington touring the area and painting designs on barns.

She came to north Alabama with an invitation from businessman Fran Guerra, who owns Guerra Holdings. One of its subsidiaries, Global Special Effects, does business with the woman’s friend in Australia.

“It’s so lovely here,” she said. “I did three or four paintings in New York City, in Brooklyn and Queens. Then, I did three in the Pittsburgh area and one in Kentucky before coming down here to stay with Fran and his family.”

Kaff-eine left Lexington for New Orleans on Tuesday, but plans to come back through the area before returning to her home in Melbourne.

“I was a lawyer and had worked in the public sector,” she said.

“Painting was just a hobby until I found out I could do commissioned works. I’ve had the opportunity to travel the world and meet wonderful people.

“This old barn in a cornfield just welcomed me, and I thought the murals would be a nice gift back to the community.”

Guerra said his friend in Australia told him she was coming to the United States.

“We gave her a place to stay and found her a couple of places to paint,” he said. “It’s amazing what she can do with a spray can of paint. I love it. I would like to see what she can do on a flat street surface.”

She painted a large rabbit, or snowshoe hare, on one side of a barn behind Global Special Effects on Lauderdale 71. On the back of the barn, she painted a reindeer.

“Both of them have something to do with snow and that’s Fran’s business, making snow,” she said.

Kaff-eine said she paints her designs mostly on walls of deserted buildings or on bricks.

She said while in New Orleans she hopes to find a deserted building from Hurricane Katrina and paint something on it to improve its appearance.

She does her smaller pieces of art in a studio using watercolors.

On the barn, she used house paint and spray paint.

“It seems to make people happy,” she said.

“It’s more of a challenge to paint something on a big open space, but Fran likes it, and he’s the one who will have to look at it.”

Kaff-eine said when she visits an area, she’ll search for days to find a place to paint and get the owner’s permission if necessary.

She said the barn took four layers of paint because the wood soaked up so much of it.

“I played with it and changed it a bit from the original sketch,” she said. “It’s just so much fun, and you really can’t make a mistake.”

Kaff-eine said she grew up drawing. She said there is a lot of street art in Melbourne.

“There is art work on all kinds of surfaces and public buildings that have street art painted on them.”

She said she has enjoyed her time in the United States.

“I’ve just enjoyed seeing all the cool things in America,” she said. “I like traveling the back roads because it’s a nice way to see the country and find things neat to paint on.

“Plus it gets me away from winter in Melbourne.”

She said of all the places she’s visited, north Alabama is one of her favorites.

“Fran has showed me the best of north Alabama,” she said.