Monday, October 12, 2009

Graffitizing The Mundane

At this point, I have realized that this project will be fluid and I will constantly be redefining it. The other day I decided to make some public art as another way of reaching out. When I was five I was a very well-behaved child. One day though, I had this brand new, 24 color box of Mickey Mouse crayons. I took them outside with me and I made a colorful mural on the patio slates. I was really excited because the colors looked so rich on the blue- gray slate. I don’t remember exactly what I drew, but I remember being extremely proud of it. By the time my mom found my artwork, the wax was melting and swirling together from the summer heat. She was shouting the word “graffiti”.

I scrubbed the wax off, but the punishment didn’t work, and from then on I was fascinated by graffiti. I paid special attention when my family drove through NYC, careful to notice any tag or mural, it was like a game. I did some of my own too, and I was smart about it. At first it was modest and I did it small enough to stay hidden to the casual observer. I would color a few tiles on the kindergarten doll house or I would write a beautiful word in the corner of a room. It was never pointless or spiteful. They were happy images— I wanted to make treasures like the ones I saw sprayed on buildings in the city. When I see beautiful graffiti I think about its meaning before I think about it as vandalism— my goal was only to impart the same feeling. So I marked the floors and walls of places where I had bad experiences so they could become better, but I also marked places of positivity, so I could share it with others.

As a teen, I was excited by the political graffiti I saw around me and I wanted to be a part of that too. It was art that was alive, art that interacted with its environment; one person draws one thing and another draws over it or responds to the message. Graffiti is the collective unconscious. It announces where to get a good blow job; it lets a dishonest cardboard politician speak the truth. It vivifies ugly, generic public places. The ironic thing is that people call it vandalism when it defaces something, but what of it when it enhances beauty or it wakes observers to the truth?

So the graffiti bug never left me. I went to college, I got bolder, and it got worse. I decided I would do some work grander than anything I’d ever done. I bought spray paint. I went out at night, dressed extravagantly, to the worst parts of Albany and painted the town. I had uplifting, thought- provoking messages and images in mind, and I sprayed them.

And I felt bad. I was sloppy because I had never used spray paint before, and because I was scared. The words dripped together. I couldn’t undo it either. I’d created an eyesore instead of a point of interest. Mundane mischief became criminal mischief.

I’m not saying I’ve left my sharpies, stickers, or paint out to dry just yet. I will however think more carefully about planning my designs, because in the few hours before the anti-vandalism truck Defacer- Eraser (Albany's official Anti- vandalism site) comes to clean, I’d want people to think differently about the day because of what they saw.

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