A Painted Message

May 16, 2010
By Anonymous

The pungent smell of spray paint wafts up from under the bridge as you’re walking over it. You stop, curious, and look over the side of the bridge. Would it make you angry if you saw someone down there writing graffiti? Perhaps you would pass them over and carelessly walk away. Or you might feel inspired by the way that this person was using their brain and a few cans of paint to convey a message potentially more powerful than any piece in the Louvre.

In our society, there are countless stereotypes and biases that plague people’s lives and can impact their mindset on things that we see every day. Graffiti has become an everyday sight for most people. The majority of people who see it probably view it as vandalism and its writers as criminals. Others may view it in different ways, maybe as something of a hobby. Still others see graffiti as a true art form through which the writers can express important messages and deep feelings.

What do think of when you hear the word, “graffiti?” Do you see criminal acts that pollute and deface property? The way I see it, graffiti is one of the truest art forms today, part of the urban-centered culture that is emerging and is taking a firm hold in the hearts and minds of the younger generation. It is true to some extent that some people are in it just for the purpose of being labeled a bad-ass or getting a rush from doing something illegal. But a lot of graffiti artists, including myself and my early mentors, use this art as a way to communicate feeling and thought through words, shapes, colors, and all other aspects of this art form.

Graffiti emerged in the 70’s and 80’s in large urban centers, mainly in the boroughs of New York City. This coincided with the rise of B-boy culture, including primitive rap and hip-hop music, breakdancing, and a new urban style of clothing. Pretty soon, the streets of New York were decorated with slick tags and colorful pieces. Everywhere- the neighborhood park, the subways, and other public properties- in some way experienced or felt the impact of Graffiti in the 70’s and 80’s.

Ever since then, this art has been considered to be a bad influence on society and is almost always associated with gang activity. In many people’s minds, graffiti signifies the low stature of a community. In my mind, none of these biases or associations is true. Perhaps that’s just the mentality of a graffiti artist who takes their work seriously, but any other bias against or for it could be labeled so. The tagging aspect of graffiti may have some bad influence, but even this is a part of the art form. The point is, graffiti as a whole should be considered an art form, and should not be criticized by others who view it as a bad influence. I don’t write graffiti to perform a criminal act or for a rush. I do it to express myself. To me, it’s disrespectful when people think of my hard work and the work of others as vandalism and crime. It seems even more so when it’s painted over. Then people can’t truly appreciate it for its intellect and expression of thought.

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