What are the rules of graffiti? Maybe I should rephrase that: are there any rules of graffiti? Well there are some things that are pretty consistent. Most graffiti is painted–usually spray-painted. Most of it’s not very good, at least from an aesthetic standpoint. Most of the time it’s just a name, if that–a lot of graffiti is just illegible scribbles. Sometimes it’s a tag meant to mark gang territory. Most people consider graffiti an eyesore that’s hard to get rid of, and that’s why you frequently find it in out-of-the-way places.
And then there’s this paper cut-out of a fawn, pasted to a wall just a few doors down from the Belcourt Theater in Nashville’s Hillsboro Village–one of the busiest districts in the whole city. There are several shops within just a block, including the independent bookstores Bookman and Bookwoman, a coffee shop, stores selling haute couture, and the Pancake Pantry which is supposed to be the best breakfast place in the city but I wouldn’t know because I don’t have the patience to stand in line on the sidewalk for three hours but that’s another story.
What I’m getting at is this isn’t a sweet picture. It’s subversive, a rule-breaker. It violates the standards. It’s deceptive in its simplicity. It’s–dare I say it?–dangerous.
Yeah, I shouldn’t dare. I’m stretching it a bit, like a rubber band around a running rhino. Maybe you need some extra convincing. What if I told you that a few blocks down the street, in a run-down area of abandoned buildings, gang tags, empty alleys, and cheap apartments there was another deer exactly like that one?
Yeah. Breaking the rules. Or following them. Either way you can see it as a subtle transposition of the rule of graffiti or a work of sweetness and innocence, the sort of thing that puts you in the holiday spirit.