Saving the planet with makeup
Artists are repurposing expired cosmetics and using them to create paintings with a message instead
It's an arty, green, and beautiful tale. It all started when Saudi-based Aisha Mir was in school. The now-20-year-old observed how people used to change make-up collections like they did their wardrobes. "When one of my friends bought the latest collection in the market, she threw the old cosmetics into the bin," recalls Aisha, who is now the founder of Artientifique, and claims that it is the world's first initiative to collect, segregate, process and convert old and expired cosmetics into paintings.
Aisha did some research, studied what happened to the cosmetics that reached landfills, and how they were wreaking havoc on the planet. Next, she approached her friends, teachers and even her school director, and collected the 'beauty waste' - which she then set about recycling into art. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, Aisha collects 'waste' cosmetics from individuals and beauticians, and looks forward to collaborating with brands and make-up stores to scale up the movement. Earlier this month, she announced the #MakeupPainters and #CreateFromHome art challenge, an open call to artists to create environment-friendly make-up paintings while they #StayAtHome. Soon enough, Dubai-based artists began to join the initiative.
"Everyone appreciated this unique concept, and the 'paint' colour quality left them amused and amazed. They encouraged me to push for a larger impact. Also, many friends volunteered to collect the products from their circles and pass them on to me. A few were shocked when I spoke with them about the consequences of improper disposals," shares Aisha.
Artist Varsha Sureka talks about how the project contributed to her wellbeing during these tough times. "As a daily routine, I would look forward to creating some exciting artworks. What better way than to convert expired cosmetics into paintings?" she asks. "The idea not only sounded fun and tickled my creative instincts, but also inspired me to spread a strong message." For fellow artist Kavita Sriram, it was her way of giving back to Nature. "It had been a while since I'd used any make-up on my face, anyway, so I decided to give my artwork a makeover!" she says.
The duo is used to working with different mediums; however, for this particular project, they decided to work with wood and paper, respectively. "I usually work on canvas," explains Kavita. "However, blending make-up on canvas was far more challenging than on paper. Despite applying Gesso (primer) on the canvas, the make-up products would settle into the canvas' pores."
Instead of paint, she experimented with foundation, lipstick, eye shadow, kohl pencils, and nail polish! Varsha too worked with whatever she had on hand at home. "It became fun the moment I figured out the use of nail paints; then, it was just a matter of being creative - and careful!"
Aisha suggests that one should choose the products - even the sticky-melting old ones - keeping in mind the intensity of the colours and the texture one wishes to achieve.
For the greater good
Most people are completely unaware of the dire effects of cosmetics at landfills, Aisha rues. "After polluting the land and killing beneficial microbes, the chemicals seep in and pollute underground water, making its way to nearby water reserves. Such release of harmful chemicals contaminate the seawater, and cause potential hormone disruptions as well as genetic mutations."
For Varsha, finding out about the potential threat of expired cosmetics to marine life only made her glad to repurpose her makeup products. "Using them in such a way is one of the most thoughtful and creative things I can think of," she says. Kavita adds, "The thought of creating something sustainable and ecological had been playing on my mind for a while. When this opportunity came along, I only needed to take stock of my expired cosmetics to make a difference."