Five hundred years ago the same artists who create graffiti now would have been carving gargoyles, making stained glass windows, and painting frescoes for cathedrals. A thousand years ago they would have been illuminating books. That’s a real stretch but I do think the driving force behind at least some graffiti is that there aren’t enough outlets for people with a need to create. In the Baroque and Rococo periods especially there was a lot of call for craftspeople to decorate every square inch of just about every surface. Economics and social changes brought an end to that and most modern design is driven by function with a belief that anything extra is superfluous. There have even been art movements that sought to strip items down to just rationality and functionality. I’m looking at you Bauhaus—and I don’t mean the band.
I still think there’s a deeply human impulse to decorate and this is a really roundabout way of saying I absolutely love the heart painted on a storage container. Whoever did this has taken a bland, utilitarian, mass-manufactured object and made it unique. At least they’ve added something interesting to it.
I’m not so in love with the car parked in front of it that made it difficult for me to get a clear shot but, hey, people gotta park. And almost every car on the road has bumper stickers, and some have eyelashes or Rudolph noses and antlers around Christmas or have been decorated in some way. Like I said: there’s a deeply human impulse to decorate.
The way the heart is drawn is very interesting to me too. The artist didn’t use conventional spray paint but something thicker, giving it a rough texture. The arrow is also pointing upward. Heart and Cupid iconography are really big subjects I won’t go into but logically a fired arrow moves in an arc, which is why they call it “archery”, but that’s another story. For an arrow to go straight up through something it has to be fired really hard and from a low angle. That does make some sense since Cupid is usually portrayed as a child.
Seen any graffiti? Send your pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m not kidding when I say I’d love to get them.