December 4, 2020

Graffiti van Gogh

Every time I see graffiti on old, abandoned buildings or on trains, one question always pops into my mind: is graffiti art or vandalism?

Last semester in my sociology class, my professor showed a 1983 documentary titled “Style Wars,” which discussed graffiti in the hip-hop community. I was intrigued from the start because I love graffiti, and seeing the passion that the artists had in doing what they love hooked me throughout the entire film.

Former New York mayor Edward Koch appeared in the documentary and was one of the people in the film who didn’t agree with the art form.

Koch  said this about graffiti: “It’s one of the quality of life offenses.”

He made it a point to compare graffiti to the acts of pickpocketing and shoplifting, and said, “… they’re all in the same area of destroying our lifestyle and making it difficult to enjoy life.”

Yes, I understand graffiti is a crime. But it doesn’t destroy any lifestyles. I’ve never encountered a single person who said graffiti made them no longer enjoy life.

Illustration by Victoria Courtney

When most people think of the word graffiti, they think of vandalism. Graffiti is illegal in most parts of the world. Drawing or spray painting on someone’s property is probably not a good idea. If someone decided they wanted to spray paint whatever they felt on my property, I would be upset. I totally understand that complaint. Some people might say that if someone likes to draw on buildings and trains so much, they should just draw on a piece of paper or join an art class.

There are places where graffiti is legal. Two of those places are in the U.S. The first one is in Venice Beach, Calif. The Venice Graffiti Pit is a place where artists can freely be creative and express themselves however they want. Another place is Queens, N.Y.

When I ride the bus and MetroLink to and from Webster University every day, I always see graffiti. I sit back and admire the hard work  someone did, whether it is a tag, which is a stylized signature, or a piece of complex art. Outside Webster’s art building, there’s space where art students can be creative. This includes drawing graffiti. I was so inspired by it that I even took photos.

I can’t draw to save my life, so to see the amount of work, time and effort it takes to create the pieces is impressive in itself.

I’m a lover of all art forms in general. I love that there are so many outlets to choose from to express yourself. When I think of the word graffiti, that’s what I think of: to be expressive, to be free, to put whatever you want to say out there to prove a point or to spread a message for the world to see.

Most people would think  it defaces the appearance of a neighborhood. To me, it adds character to it, with eye-popping colors and intricate, well-thought-out designs. In saying all of this, I strongly believe that graffiti is art. I wish there were more areas in our country and around the world that would legalize graffiti.

Even though I think destroying another person’s property is bad, I believe in art more. After all, graffiti isn’t killing anyone.

Victoria Dickson is a senior journalism major and staff writer for The Journal.

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