Missed Connections.

Sometimes I go looking for graffiti, or public art—and the distinction between those two can get pretty fuzzy—and sometimes I just find it. Sometimes I find it because my definition of art is so broad it includes things most people don’t consider art, but if all my years of looking at and reading about art have taught me anything it’s that “art” isn’t easily defined, and I doubt that even if I did become a professional art critic or art historian I’d feel differently. In fact I did once ask an academic what it took to be a professional art historian and he said, “At the very least a Master of Fine Arts degree,” and it was kind of funny to me that anyone ever thought art was something you could master, but that’s another story.

To get back to my original point, and I should because now that I think about it most of the time I don’t find graffiti by looking for it—I just find it, like the example above. I wasn’t looking for graffiti when I found it. I was on my way to a movie and parked in the very lowest level in the far corner of a parking garage even though it meant climbing three flights of stairs, but I was fine with that. I needed the exercise, although I’d really need the exercise even more after a large popcorn. I just like to park a long distance from wherever it is I’m going because I like the exercise and I never know what I’ll see on the way, and it comes in handy during the holiday season when I don’t have much choice.

I was really struck by how someone had not only tagged this storage shed but done so with a lot of flourish, clearly giving it some real thought. They took what was a strictly utilitarian, mass-produced object, something that someone had probably designed without much thought about anything beyond making it as cheap as possible, and they gave it aesthetic appeal.

Something I didn’t even think about until, well, now, is that it might have been in the southeast corner of the parking garage. Maybe there was even another one on the other side that the same person embellished with “North East”. I would know if I’d just bothered to look.


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  1. M.L. James

    That really is amazing. Whenever I’ve come across a bit of graffiti/gang writing kind of stuff, I’ve never been able to actually read any of it. This I can. If they haven’t already, someone should travel the US or maybe other places as well and do a coffee table/art book on graffiti. That is how Basquiat got his start, after all, as a graffiti artist. Thanks for sharing this with us. I once asked my PhD art professor at what is now UNT how one can tell the difference between Picasso and Braque because some of their cubist works were so similar. He asked me, “Why do you need to?” and walked away with his nose stuck up in the air. Since then, I just go with what I like. The real question is: what do I not like? I haven’t figured that out yet because I like the different elements and the design of art in all of its guises, both from an aesthetic and utilitarian POV. If that makes sense. Give me blank canvases and, yes, I can understand perhaps what the artist was trying to convey. Give me color and pattern and abstract or give me very detailed paint strokes or etchings. Give me accuracy. Give me technique. Give me mood. Give me movement. Give me whimsy or give me something historically important. Make me think and feel and learn something new, though. Basquiat is one of my favs. He died much too young. Mona
    M.L. James recently posted…Sound bitesMy Profile

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      You’ve brought up a lot of really great points here–thank you so much for that. Basquiat is one of my favs too, and also Keith Haring, who also got his start doing graffiti. In fact I just read about a Keith Haring mural that’s being moved to a museum because the building where he painted it is being renovated, and it raises the question, does that change the meaning of the work? He painted the mural in a youth center where young people would see it every day, but in a museum the sort of people who see it, and when they see it, will be very different. So there can be some value in knowing the difference between a Braque and a Picasso. Their styles are similar but they were very different people, which could change how we interpret their work. Or not. It’s all a matter of perspective.

  2. Ann Koplow

    I appreciate all the directions you travel, Chris. Thanks for taking us there.
    Ann Koplow recently posted…Day 2538: Coping and HealingMy Profile

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Whatever my destination may be I’m always glad to find you there.


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