Days before an intoxicated twenty-something scribbled “Freedom” on the side of my car with spray paint, the topic of graffiti came up during an afternoon meeting. The conversation was about a piece of quintessential Portland graffiti art (see left), and at the time it seemed “hip” rather than thought provoking. I am more intrigued by graffiti art now, but I’m getting lost in where the boundaries lie between the visual art, the symbolism of the medium in which it is created, and the importance of who will see it before it’s destroyed.
The freedom and ability to express ourselves where someone will notice, appreciate and think about what we have to say is beautiful. I don’t believe the artist who decided to write “I’m Hungry” in the middle of my street after he decorated my car was really going though any personal struggle at that moment in time. The lack of effort he put into finding the right medium to provoke thought about his view on the world was disappointing to me, more so than the effort I put forth to clean it off of my Subaru. As I scrubbed my windows, it was clear that whatever message the artist was trying to send was completely lost in translation.
I understand and agree that every person will find their own ways of expressing themselves. Whether it’s though writing, painting, video or whatever floats your boat that day, the options are endless. Choosing the right medium is, some might say, more important than the message itself. The “freedom” we have to express ourselves however and wherever we want does not make our creations art. It’s not creative, and it’s not beautiful if people can’t appreciate the message and accept the medium.
I found out from the District Attorney, during my visit to the Oregon Grand Jury, that the “artists” were sorry they spray painted the car next to mine sporting a Grateful Dead sticker. Perhaps a friend of the devil is not a friend of mine after all.