It’s no secret that I love graffiti. I have mad props for artists who use the medium. Also, yes I totally get how pretentious all of this sounds, but I can’t help it. I’m a nerdy, upper middle class white girl who’s never actually spray painted anywhere other than one slab of particle board in her dad’s wood shop before acknowledging her complete lack of ability in the genre.
I’ve seen a lot of arguments (statements, really) about how graffiti artists are mostly just vandals, and that except for the great gods like Banksy, it’s just destructive and not art at all. Well, last night I had a dream (nightmare, really, but let’s not get into that) that started with my sister and I walking down the street. We paused where a building had recently been demolished, and some street artists had covered the remains in a colorful plethora of art. It was amazingly beautiful, and I was particularly drawn to where one artists had spray painted an old school tape with purple paint. It was my favorite, and I paused to take some pictures.
We walked on and had a really great conversation about street art that I remember almost verbatim. She asked me why I considered it art–why anyone did, really. She wasn’t being critical, just curious, and I tried to give her a solid answer. The first and easiest answer is that people find beauty in what street artists do. People find what they do beautiful, thought provoking and interesting. That’s not the sole criteria for art by any means, but it’s definitely enough to qualify as art.
I went further, though, and I think a further qualifier is that this a medium that people practice and refine their skills at. A lot of people work really hard at creating provocative and interesting street art. Even the lamest, most obnoxiously messy tagging can be some very unpolished and primitive form of art. There’s a book that is totally on my I-fucking-want-this-so-bad that covers the shaping of tagging as fonts and it charts their various cities of origin and evolution through trains. So cool. I think I can draw the line at solely and intentionally destructive acts of vandalism, but most all of them (even the lame stuff) are a completely legitimate form of artistic expression. Even the intentionally destructive acts can be important artistic statements.