IN OUR TIME OF MASS-PRODUCED ART AND OVERWHELMING ADVERTISING, WE SHOULD CELEBRATE ARTISTS WHO PUSH BACK
Independent artists at art events and craft fairs are believers. They believe that handmade, unique, and locally produced work is worth fighting for. They believe that their designs and crafts can have meaning to other people as well as to themselves. They believe that corporate manufacturers don’t make art. People make art.
So what does all of this have to do with graffiti? Well, I would argue that some graffiti artists ( not all but many) make their art because they are believers too.
They believe that in a world plastered with billboards and advertising, it is good for artists to speak back. They believe that in a world where we can’t turn our heads without seeing an ad, there should be some spaces that have been taken back and filled with work that is free, truthful, and elegant.
REBELLION OR BLESSING?
“I, for one, would also rather see the creative outpouring of our youth on the walls instead of the billboards and advertising inflicted upon us around every corner,” Lady Pink, an artist and muralist from New York City who got her start as a graffiti artist, wrote in the New York Times.
“A bit of rebellion is something we should champion as a society. Somebody has to question the status quo—or we’ll grow stagnant,” she said.
Others will argue that it is never right to tag someone else’s property without permission—that graffiti is first and foremost a crime. One solution for this problem is to create legal spaces for graffiti. This solution is positive in many ways, but it is not perfect.
IS ART MORE COMPELLING IF CREATING IT WAS DANGEROUS?
Eric Felisbret, author of Graffiti in New York wrote in the New York Times that while legal graffiti can be impressive and important, it might not be as powerful as traditional graffiti.
He writes, “A well-executed painting, rendered under adverse conditions and time constraints, is far more impressive than one undertaken without risk.”
No matter how you feel about the morality of graffiti, there is something compelling about an artist willing to risk freedom and well-being for self-expression.
When we talk about graffiti, it’s important to make a distinction. We aren’t talking about gang signs. We aren’t talking about work that threatens harm to other people. We are talking about work that attempts to be beautiful.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?
So why write about graffiti on a blog dedicated to artists and crafters?
Well, it’s because I think we should recognize their spirit, and even if we don’t think that graffiti is always good, we should all acknowledge that creativity is always better than its opposite.
We should feel inspired to continue our efforts to bring handmade, local art back into the daily lives of Americans.
Last year, August Martin High School in New York City was graffitied. The freshly painted, white walls of the school were flooded with color, and not only was this graffiti legal, it was requested.
The students at the high school complained that the white walls were sterile and uninspiring, so some of the most famous graffiti artists in the country were brought in to disrupt the white walls with stunning and inspiring graffiti.
This is the kind of thing that makes high school students proud of their school. This is the kind of good work art unleashed can do. Check out some of the art at the school here.
So we at ACT are curious to know what you all think of graffiti—whether you see it as a blessing or a menace. But no matter where you come down on this issue, we want you to know we admire you.
We admire artists who work because they love what they do. We admire artists who bring meaning to their own lives and to the lives of others by creating work that asks for nothing else but to be seen.
So carry on artists and crafters! And thank you for what you do.