“Have you seen the faces?”

My friend Jamie and I were having lunch. I had just told her about my “American Graffiti” series. That’s when she brought up “the faces” on a wall along I-440. No, I hadn’t seen them. I was intrigued.

“All right,” she said. “We’re going for a ride.”

Check please!

I recognized the stretch of interstate–it’s one I’ve been down several times. I remembered it because of this house:

graffitihouseIt’s had better graffiti on it in the past. Notice, too, the washes of color down the wall on the right.  Every time I’ve zipped by I’ve thought about trying to figure out where that house is and whether I can get to it to take some closer pictures. Then I move on and forget about it. I see a lot of really good graffiti–incredibly well done, elaborate stuff–from moving cars. Most of it is on buildings. Some of it is on train containers that run parallel to the road. Someday I’m going to go to a train yard and get pictures of some of the amazing graffiti on trains, but that’s another story.

Some graffiti I see in really surprising, even dangerous, places, like underpasses. That brings me to the faces. They’re on the wall that runs alongside the interstate. I’m not sure how Jamie spotted them in the first place. She tells me some have even been painted over. It’s not surprising to me that I’ve never seen them before. Even when I’m not driving I’m usually looking straight ahead, and unless you turn to look straight at them you’ll miss them.

facesEmbiggen the picture and you’ll see the reflection of my hand and my phone as I quickly snapped a picture–Jamie offered to drive by again, but she’d done too much already. Here’s more detail:


Clearly these were created with stencils, but what’s more impressive than the technique is the location. Someone literally risked their lives, or at least really serious injury. And this particular artist’s work–at least I think it’s the same artist–has cropped up elsewhere, specifically at bus stops around town. I’ve shared this picture before:


I thought this was just a clever tribute to Steve Martin’s history with Nashville, but now I feel it’s gone beyond that. By placing more of these pictures in hard-to-reach and easily missed places I think the artist is making a subtler, weirder statement. I’m just not sure what it is. All I can say for certain is thanks for the ride, Jamie.

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  1. Ann Koplow

    I don’t leave this graffiti enough: Thanks for the ride, Chris.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Thank you Ann for being a passenger. I have no idea where I’m going, but I appreciate having others share the ride.

  2. TwerlaP

    I didn’t notice last time, that’s an actual sign the ‘artist’ bolted to the pole.
    I saw Steve Martin at Alpine Valley in I think ’79. It was very surreal hearing thousands of people laughing in unison at silly jokes like his arrow through the head. Needless to say, he was much more enjoyable than the main act-Supertramp.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Yes, someone put a lot of work into that sign. You’re very lucky to have seen Martin live, and so early, but I guess that was after he stopped doing his usual trick of leading the entire audience out into the night. A guy I worked with told me about the night he was walking down a street here in Nashville and saw a huge crowd of people coming in the opposite direction. They were being led by this guy dressed in all white…that was his introduction to Steve Martin.

  3. TwerlaP

    I was just wondering why I hadn’t seen Steve Martin lately, so I googled. Apparently he’s been recording banjo and folk music. So…maybe every time he comes to Nashville, he makes another self portrait.

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