Wednesday, November 14, 2007

In praise of graffiti

I like graffiti.
I'm not advocating vandalism, really... I don't like crappy vandalism that destroys property and creates an eyesore (like the swastika that someone painted on a wall in the middle of Spencer that stayed there for months until someone finally painted over it.) But I do like the funky, colorful treats like these that pop up from time to time. Some can be very thought-provoking. Others are just fun to look at. I have no clue what these tags say, but I love the designs. I saw these on a train while visiting the University of Charleston campus. It would be interesting to know where these tags originated and the stories behind the people who created them.
To me, graffiti like this is the modern equivalent of ancient cave art. It's the purest form of art. The purpose of it is simply to say "I was here." It was created just to be seen, made by a regular person with whatever spray paint he or she had available, and maybe a quick cardboard stencil or two. No money involved, really; no fame. It's spontaneous, and fun. Go to a big city, and the graffiti is everywhere -- and a lot of it is really impressive artwork!
I think the real vandalism is advertising. I would much rather see some nice graffiti on a wall than a great big billboard for a car dealership.


The Dalai Mama said...

I totally hear you. When I was about 10, my dad took me to NYC. ALL of the subway cars were completely graffiti-ed on the outside. I thought it was so cool.

Rick Lee said...

Every once in a while I am tempted to photograph some graffiti because, as you said, some of it is pretty inspired, but then I hold back and I don't do it. I just never want to feel like I'm promoting it. It's never beautiful if it's painted on your property, or property that's your responsibility to keep clean. A few years ago we had a terrible rash of graffiti in downtown Charleston... on all those fabulous restored Victorian buildings. Buildings that have taken so long with so much effort and money to bring back to life. (I'm old enough to remember when all of those buildings on Capitol St had crappy false fronts on them) I fantasized about finding out who the vandals were and going to their house and spray painting all of their belongings. Anyway, my 2 cents.

Rebecca Burch said...

Yeah, you have a good point, Rick. It's one thing if it's on a rusty old train car or crumbling retaining wall on the bad side of town. It's completely different when it's on a house or a building someone's taken the time and money to restore. I wasn't aware of the graffiti problem in Charleston, but that would definitely break my heart.