Friday, August 5, 2011

Urban Art

Kirksville, MO
Columbia, MO
Recently, as I've walked around my town, I've noticed more graffiti. This makes me happy, but only because it's tasteful graffiti. The paint isn't drippy looking and it seems to be placed in tiny places that you wouldn't necessarily notice if you weren't looking. I've seen similar graffiti in other towns, including Columbia, MO and Nashville, TN. It's a lot of places, of course, but you have to be on foot (for the most part) to notice these stenciled graffiti "bombs."

These graffiti stencils say something and most aren't tagged with an artist's signature of any sort. Maybe I like this about them as well. It seems a little more universal that way, like (I'd argue) art should be, a little more like I might know the person who created the graffiti. And who knows, maybe I do. From what I can find out, many of the graffiti stencil bombs are created by graphic design majors (or just people who happen to be pretty good at GD) and I know a number of people I'd include in that category.

However, even graffiti on the trains that run through town make me happy, when the graffiti artist was talented. There's something I envy in the images or words on these trains, in the ability to create clean art with a spray can and a metal surface--when I wouldn't even be able to create a replica on a sheet of paper. I envy the illicitness of the activity (and resent that it's illicit at all--cities and other municipalities which employ their graffiti artists to create murals make me happy because these actions help make graffiti art more legitimate in the public eye).

But, I also happen to really like graffiti. A year ago, I had the opportunity to drive around southern Iowa and somewhere near Kalona there's a fantastic barn covered with graffiti. I wanted to get a picture of it, but I wasn't the driver and couldn't convince the driver to stop. Alas.

That's not to say I love (or even like) all urban art. Far from it. Some of it is offensive, or shows no talent, or is just paint on public property. A couple of summers ago, the playground I grew up playing on -- one located in the middle of a neighborhood -- got graffitied with blue paint. No images, no words, just paint on equipment.

Anna Helping Show Off Guerrilla Knitting
If you google "urban art" you'll find entries for the Urban Art Awards, Street Art Awards, and others. Perhaps the most famous (currently) of the urban artists is Banksy, a British street artists whose work you may (or probably) recognize. There's also JR, a French artist. His TED talk, Use Art to the Turn the World Inside Out is worth viewing, if you haven't watched it. But you may also start to find things about "yarn bombing." Guerrilla knitters, and others, yarn-bomb everything from street lamps to cars. The point: to make
the world a little more beautiful, to add visual interest. To help us open our eyes.

The images below are graffiti stencils I saw on my way to my food co-op this morning, to buy cream so I could make butter with a little boy I've been watching this summer (that project was a success). He watched the train (also graffitied) and I took these pictures. I've also taken pictures of an angry trash can, a fighting (but not ninja) turtle, the oil bottle shown above, and others. I like taking pictures of urban art and you'll probably see more of these images on this blog over coming weeks and months. I'd love to know your thoughts about urban art.

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