Danya Aletebi is the first woman to ever take on the Everyday Gas Station Mural Space on College and Eighth in Durango all by herself. Battling wind and rain and the challenge of covering an enormous canvas with paint sans assistance, Aletebi has completed her project in the name of female empowerment. She believes strongly in defying social norms and the power of womanly strength. Born in Saudi Arabia, Aletebi moved to Durango with her family when she was young; she also lived for years in the Bay Area (during college and after), always deeply entrenched in the art scene. Aletebi recently moved back to Durango, where she hopes to practice tattooing and painting, in addition to remaining an enthusiastic participant in the feminist, queer, alternative and recovering addict communities. We spoke to Aletebi about her painting process and feminist perspective.
How did you get the Everyday gig?
When I lived here eight years ago, there wasn’t a space for artists to paint legally. But when I first moved back to Durango, I noticed this wall. I immediately went into the gas station and asked about it. It’s usually a bunch of artists who come and do it together. I came and realized there was only one woman painting with a ton of dudes. So I asked to do the wall alone.
How did you decide on the design and what’s the significance behind it?
My brain works like a magic pot. It’s sort of stewing all the time. Usually I incorporate female faces into everything I do. I’ve been in the riot grrl and feminist community for over a decade, and I feel like portraying women as a strong, kind of whimsical force is really powerful. I wanted to do that on this wall.
Have you ever painted anything this big before?
No! It’s taught me to be extremely humble. I painted murals in the Bay Area and on the East Coast, but standing next to a 30-foot wall when you’re 5’8” will teach you a lesson.
What were the biggest challenges of the mural?
Ego and self-expectations. The idea I had in my brain of taking this project on was like taking on every female in the world, showing you can do something this big. But once I let go, that’s when it all started coming together.
What medium did you use?
Spray paint, and I mix my own acrylic latex-based paints at home to get the right colors.
Can you talk a little about your beliefs in defying social norms and female empowerment?
I 100 percent believe in smashing social normality. And the power of the female. I think it’s often forgotten that every person walking around and driving by right now is here because of a woman. I think women naturally have to work harder than men – it’s just the basis of how we’re socialized. Especially in communities like reporting, spray painting, tattooing … because it’s male-dominated. I don’t believe that’s right and I don’t think it’s the way it needs to be. That’s not to say I’m anti-male. I’m just pro-female.
How long will the mural be up for?
Until the end of May.
How did the weather affect your painting process?
Mother Nature, right? Yet another mother. Gotta love her, gotta despise her sometimes. The weather has been an issue; it’s physically impossible to spray paint when it’s raining or blowing wind. And because I use acrylic paint, it will run in the rain.
What do you love about Durango and the arts community here?
I love that Durango has changed a lot. I was gone for eight years in California, and when I came back it was amazing to see diversity, both in skin color and in projects like this. I feel like there’s kind of a trembling of movements getting ready to happen here. And it’s a beautiful place … there’s nowhere like this town.
This interview was edited lightly for clarity.
Anya Jaremko-GreenwoldDGO Staff Writer