Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Graffiti Art

For my final commonplace entry I will be focusing on graffiti art. Specifically the graffiti art tunnel on campus just before the gates leading to center stage. While I couldn't get inside the of the tunnel itself, the art on the outside was more then enough for me to cover. I take frequent walks over to the graffiti wall when I need to think, clear my head, or if I'm looking for inspiration. And every time I've been over there the art has been changed. Nothing stays up there for more then a month or so and I often see groups of people walking over to spray over top of what's there to put up their own creations.

Now until sometime last year I didn't even know graffiti was an art form and you can believe otherwise if you so wish. However, graffiti art is very difficult. I learned this the hard way because two of my friends who are astonishing painters are also amateur graffiti artists. When I found this out I chuckled and foolishly asked "Is that really considered art?" they gasped and showed me some of what they had created and told me to give it a try. Not wanting to back down after my remarks I gave my best attempt at creating art...it was a mess. Needless to say I made a fool of myself and learned to keep my mouth shut. I later followed them to the water tower (behind my high school), which frequently falls a victim to this art form. Watching my friends execute even the simplest design amazed me. They had to get every line, swirl, loop, letter, shading, and "mistake,” correct the first time because obviously spray paint isn't erasable. Spray paint can also be very uncooperative and tough to work with as can the medium the graffiti artist chooses to work on. So from then on I became a believer in graffiti art. I have not attempted to make anymore graffiti art since my first attempt but I have the utmost respect for the artists that have taken the time to learn how to create this precise and expressive form of artwork.
After taking multiple pictures of the art that currently resides on the wall toward the back of UNCSA I decided to use this portion:

This particular piece of art has a mix of jagged, edgy lines and curved lines. The curves seem to only truly appear on arch figures in the graffiti and on the only off colored light purple part which has the largest curve in the piece. The piece mostly consists of zigzag jagged lines, which give the piece a harsh and coarse feeling. This is only the beginning of the graffiti area and covers between six to ten feet across and about three feet high. In the photo the graffiti appears to be smooth and almost glossy but in reality it has been painted on a rather rough surface of brick. I would describe this piece as symbolistic; it means something to the artists but passerbyers are left in the dark. I would call the work expressionistic as well because the painting has been created through an abstract medium in a way that many do not understand or see as vandalism rather than art. Graffiti art is imperfect and meant to be that way because it's about self expression and requires the artists to throw themselves into something that could very well be destroyed the next morning.

The majority of the graffiti is a bluish-purple color but one area is a much lighter purple that is not used anywhere else in the piece. The background is a yellow cloud outlined in red, an explosion maybe, coming from behind the main focus of the piece-the lettering. There are also three white stars bursting from the lettering. The shadows are colored in black and give another plain of depth to the work. This particular graffiti piece repeats itself you can see this by looking at the right edge of the picture where the pattern starts over. I can’t decide whether that sad smiley face on the lighter purple area was intended to be there by the original artists or added later without their knowledge. This piece bulges and pushes against itself, begging for more room so the jumbled letters can stretch out. The entire piece is outlined by a thin white line that contrasts with the black used for the shadows and fills making the painting pop from the wall.

Somehow I think the graffiti knows that people are intrigued by it and will stop to try and decipher it’s meaning. I felt like I had to stop and look at every part of this wall or I would miss something. I find this true for the photo as well. I can’t ignore it or push it aside just because I don’t know the intention or meaning of the artwork, we wouldn’t have half the art we do now if that were the case. This kind of art is truly a statement; being able to create art anywhere and everywhere is a gift. Great murals and depictions of society have been created by graffiti art.

Graffiti art would remind me most of mannerist paintings if I were to put it into a category from this term. The reason being, graffiti art delves into individualism and each piece of art, while similar, will always be different from artist to artist. The exaggerated lettering and shapes generally stay the same. But the color, curves, background, and meaning will vary from artist to artist. Graffiti varies from region to region much as paintings in the time of mannerism did. While Italy was still prominent the center or art was moving to France. Italian mannerism is not the same as French. In turn, a graffiti piece created in Detroit will not be the same as one created in Los Angeles. However, what graffiti art truly reminds me of are inscriptions such as the ones created on the French caves we studied in the fall term.

Invasion of the Crabs!

While thinking about what my focus would be for my final commonplace entry this term I remembered a strange type of art that my city has been displaying since the summer of 2005.

Back in 2005 a project was created named The Crabtown Project which raised money for Baltimore City Schools because they are drastically underfunded and in terrible condition throughout the city. The project invited local artists to take a 5X5 foot fiberglass crab and turn it into a work of art. Over 350 artists were vying for a chance to get their hands on one of them. Out of those 350, 200 where eventually chosen. After the artists had completed their creations, the crabs were unleashed upon the unsuspecting city. In the fall, all of the crabs where auctioned off and ended up raising over a million dollars for renovations to bathrooms, replacement of exterior doors and floor tiles, carpet replacement and other needs for the schools. All of the artists received a bit of money (~$1,000) but most of them agreed that the project was fun and they would have participated without payment in order to help the schools. What I found exceptionally intriguing was some of the artists asked for input from the kids, what they wanted to see and create, not only what the artist felt like making.

Most of these crabs are no longer in Baltimore City but the few that do remain stand proudly and represent the full hearts of Baltimore artists and the people and businesses of the city. Some of the crabs are in plain sight, around tourist attractions such as the inner harbor or outside of Raven's stadium. Others are hidden only seen by the Baltimore native who knows where to look. When they first appeared I thought they were around because summer was approaching, thus crab season, a promotion tactic or maybe a college school project. But when they stuck around I was determined to find out why. When I did I was truly proud to a Baltimorean knowing how our city pulled together with a public event such as this one. And to help children no less. When I see tourists and children down in the city pointing at them, playing on them, and taking pictures of them I think about how absurd they must seem to an outsider. But if they knew the story behind them they might come to mean more then just creative and beautifully decorated glass crabs. These pieces of art have a deeper hidden meaning then simply sitting by the Washington Monument or outside of the Aquarium; they represent my city. Not only because crabs are the trademark of Maryland but also because of the goodhearted and loving people who inhabit a city that as of late is only known for it's high crime rate and subpar schooling. Creating these crabs was not something these artists did for the money or their careers necessarily. They were created by people who care about creating art for a cause and helping hundreds of schools and children. If you ever have a chance to visit Charm City make sure to keep an eye out for a crab taxi or referee and take the time to stop and explore them, find out who created them. Some of the artists even give credit to the children who helped creatively and physically build these art crabs.

I don’t usually enjoy art for causes because to me the events (as well as the art) seem forced. But in this case I found the art intuitive, unique, and creative, capturing my full attention and emotion.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

"I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together."

Last week we enjoyed about two to three inches of snow fall. My friends and I immediately went outside to have a snowball fight and make snowmen. I felt like a little kid again playing in my backyard at home with my brother. The excitement and happiness overflowed and became contagious to anyone who walked by. After we had all settled down and gone back inside to drink hot chocolate and play smash bros I decided that I would go out later to enjoy the quite of the early morning. So around 3am I braved the biting cold and light snowfall to take pictures and enjoy the beauty and purity of snow. My thoughts and silence were soon broken as my eye caught a flash from another camera. I don't know why I didn't think anyone else was nuts enough to be walking around at this time in the morning taking pictures of snow covered trees and bikes but low and behold at least two other film students were outside with the same exact idea. Even after I had fulfilled my desire for pictures I remained outside to listen and appreciate nature. When such a beautiful act of nature such as snow occurs I often step back to take everything in. I wish that I could have become invisible, just observing the delicate flakes that end up brushed aside and stomped on by eager feet. I love seeing a field of undisturbed snow; no footprints, no sign of an interference. When I do come across such a field I am stopped in my tracks with aw and watch for a while without any concern for the passing time or my frozen nose and feet. A sensation washes over me, I no longer feel connected to myself or anything around me, I become an invisible eyeball. As such I neither interfere nor react, only observe and ponder the wonders of nature.