Pakistani artist brings talents to El Cosmico

Haider Ali painting at El Cosmico (Photo by Sarah M. Vasquez)


MARFA – “I spread message of peace and message of love with my colors around the world,” said truck artist Haider Ali.

El Cosmico brought the Pakistan artist, and his message, to West Texas this week. Graphic artist Mishka Westell discovered Ali on the internet and learned that he has traveled to paint in the U.S. over the years, including the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 2002. She said the highly ornate hand-painted trucks–a tradition in Pakistan, Nepal and India–are so striking and beautiful that she thought El Cosmico would be the right place for him to share his work.

“While I had him in the back of my mind for a year or two, I couldn’t imagine it would be possible for him to make the 8,000+ mile trip to Marfa,” said Westell. “However, when the time came to decorate one of the vintage trailers at El Cosmico, I thought I‘d give it a try. Luckily for us, he was enthusiastic.”

Ali arrived in Marfa on July 28 and went straight to work. He was given the red and yellow ‘49 Mansion as his canvas. He saw a photo of the trailer before he arrived but he didn’t have any sort of plan. He lets the trailer dictate what to paint and in what color.

“This trailer talks to me,” said Ali. “It’s all in my mind.”

Ali started painting when he was seven years old. His father, Muhammad Sardar, was also a truck artist and trained his son in the traditional painting techniques until Ali was ready to paint his own truck (under supervision) when he was 16 years old.

Now at 39, Ali has developed his own style through years of practice, skipping the traditional techniques and painting by freehand. His work is painted by layer, with color combinations of hot pinks and yellows interacting with scenes of nature inspired by Pakistan and West Texas imagery. He mixes his paints on the side of the Dixie cups to get the perfect shade.

He finished one side of the trailer in four days, starting early in the morning and working until sunset. Each inch of the trailer is filled with colorful details. There are birds and roadrunners familiar to West Texans. Next to the front door is a painting of what the trailer used to look like under a starry sky. On the bottom of the door are two circles with the Pakistan and American flags. Ali said he wants to bring people together. The trailer is how he shares the art from Pakistan and to show Pakistan how much love America has given him.

“This trailer will be preserved as a work of art and a little piece of Pakistan for decades to come and for many travelers and locals to see,” said Westell. “It’s a unique fusion of the American West and the artistic traditions of South Asia.”

Ali is teaching a painting workshop from 6 to 8 p.m. tonight at El Cosmico. To register, go to

(Photo by Sarah M. Vasquez)

(Photo by Sarah M. Vasquez)

(Photo by Sarah M. Vasquez)

(Photo by Sarah M. Vasquez)