My goal in life is to be able to love what I do and be able to take it with me wherever I go. I heard a speech the other day about not following the well-trodden path, like Frost’s The Road Not Taken. Why not break with the norm and find a way to enjoy every part of your life before you retire? I admire people who work from their laptops, travel bloggers and online sellers. It’s incredible to be able to free up your life so you can enjoy the best parts while they’re happening instead of reminiscing about them once they’ve passed. I love the movement, the locomotion, the activity of it all. I guess that’s why I miss seeing graffiti on the trains.
Most of my childhood was in the late 70s, 80s and early 90s, so I saw a lot of graffiti. It’s beautiful. The vision and skill involved in this particular artform excite me. Reimagining lines, letters, numbers, and shapes; turning something plain or ugly into something vibrant and teeming with life is thrilling. Seeing horrid metal storefront rollers covered with a landscape, an image, or a tribute makes me smile. The unattractive parts of living in the inner city are the window bars, the covers for the doors or shops, all the necessary steel it takes to protect one’s belongings. To turn those into something beautiful or awe-inspiring is a gift to the community. I’ve had students who showed their graffiti in galleries, or who gifted me with designs to decorate my classroom. Each is unique; each is an original.
My graffiti skills are definitely subpar, but I do make an attempt. The image alone of lettering that doesn’t quite fit the cookie cutter letters teacher usually use draws the students in. They are intrigued; there is a kinship created when I express my appreciation for an artform that is often underrated and scorned by the establishment. Whenever I see plain, enclosed concrete walkways, I think about ways to beautify them. What if each were an enormous canvas that could showcase the art of the young rather than a repository of multi-colored white paint splotches covering a forbidden, longed-for canvas. No one defaces a mural on the street. People appreciate the art. So to me, long stretches of cargo trains are mobile canvases.
I know you probably think that these are all publicly or privately owned and it is vandalism if they are painted without consent. You’re right, that’s true. I’m not saying that people should run out and graffiti all over other people’s stuff. I simply miss seeing the mobile beauty of it all. I miss the uniqueness, the vibrancy. So much is like everything else these days: houses, “individual style,” Instagram models, music, whatever; I long for true individual inspiration.
So, I’m on a quest, not to vandalize as many trains cars as I can (I already told you, my graffiti is mediocre at best, plus they aren’t mine to paint.) But, to find a way to make my own art mobile; to turn ugliness into beauty; to make old things new again. I hope to take you along for the journey.