CHAPEL HILL – You may have noticed the barcode paintings along Franklin Street. It’s a part of “Windows on Chapel Hill”—an art initiative here in Chapel Hill that features the work of three local artists.The artist known as Parasol B is the behind the barcodes—she’s integrating art with smart phones and so much more.

I took a walk with Parasol B to explore the interactive art tour, guided by the artist herself.

We met at Vimala’s Curry Blossom Café—the starting point for her art walk– an interactive tour along Franklin Street which she calls Depiction: Chapel Hill.

“I spent several hours just walking around and snapping pictures of things that caught my eye and just looking for interesting details that people might not notice or looking at things in a way that people might not look at already and that way I can  say ‘Hey, look at that! Did you ever notice that?’” Parasol B said.

Hanging inside and outside of the café are Parasol B’s art creations—barcodes painted by hand using spray paint and stencils. She began painting bar codes about 3 years ago but has a background in experimental video.

Parasol B bar code painting“What I typically try to do with my work is take bar codes and take them out of their normal context of being these small things being used with marketing and commerce,” she said. “I make them gigantic to do something interesting with them but still have them be scan-able with your smart phone.”

Before meeting, Parasol B instructed me to download the smart phone app which accompanies and helps guide participants through the tour.

As we began talking, I used my smart phone to scan the large painting in the café and the tour began.

“I like the idea of bridging technology with the traditional mediums which is why I used paint,” Parasol B said.  “But then there’s this connect made with the smart phones to bring you this other element and since most everybody has one, they can all participate.”

People who can’t access the smart phone app can still follow the instructions and upload pictures—it’ll just involve more steps.

Parasol B

Parasol B

Depiction: Chapel Hill App

“Something can happen with your smart phone- it can send you to web page, it can send you to an audio or video file—there’s a lot of options and for this project. It gives you information and maps, instructions of photos to take and also a way to send your photo or submit your photo so that it becomes a part of my web site and part of a photo gallery on my website automatically. It’s auto-magic.”

There are 13 stops in the Depiction art walk.

The first stop we made was an alley way with an old, boarded window. Parasol B calls this stop “Letters.”

I made the shape of a C with my arms, she took a picture of it, and now it’s a part of heron line gallery—uploaded directly from the app.

Rachel Nash letter c“They’ll either follow the directions or not follow the directions. I think it’s interesting for people to interpret the instructions. And ask strangers to do things so that they can take a photo so that they get outside their comfort zones and flex their creativity a little bit,” she said.

“Windows on Chapel Hill” is a collaborative year-long project between the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership and Town of Chapel Hill Public and Cultural Arts Office.

With the project, downtown Chapel Hill storefronts come to life with eye-catching pop-up art displays.

The Town chose three artists to do the installations, Parasol B included with the Depiction installation.

Parasol B did a similar project for the Durham Store Front Project using bar codes but it did not have an app to accompany the installation.

“This is the right community for this,” she explained. “There are a lot of tech-focused people; there are a lot of young people; there are a lot of people into arts and culture. So hopefully there’s an overlap there of people who are interested.”

As we walked and talked, I had another question for Parasol B: What’s the inspiration behind the pseudonym?

“I wanted this Parasol B person to be someone who has the guts to do the things that my normal self wouldn’t do,” the artist said.

She also said she simply liked parasols.

Parasol B’s next guided art walk is May 11, beginning at Vimala’s Curry Blossom Café from 2 to 4 p.m. Check out her Facebook page for more information.
Art Walk                            Art Walk 2
Above: Photos Taken During Art Walk