‘City As Canvas’ Exhibition and the Willingness to Let Yourself Become a Graffiti Artist
?City As Canvas? Exhibition and the Willingness to Let Yourself Become a Graffiti Artist
It was the day before I left New York, the memories of which trigger a nostalgic smile every time I close my eyes. Since I left NYC a lot of things have changed for me but lets not get ahead of myself. It was a warm summer morning and I was rushing up 5th Av. towards the Museum of the City of New York. I?d previously read quite a lot about the ‘City as Canvas‘ exhibition and I really wanted to get a peek at Martin Wong’s Collection prior to my departure.
A few minutes after I went through the entrance I froze in place. The paintings hanging on the walls opened a door behind which a completely unfamiliar world was hidden. Artistic. Colourful. Alive… with each and every canvas evoking a specific feeling. I’ve read about the exhibition before, about the contradictory comments critics have made towards the whole graffiti culture and now I could see myself some of the master pieces crafted by Keith Haring, Lee Quiñones, LADY PINK, and FUTURA 2000.
I found a bench right in the middle of the hall and stared at one particular painting. My eyes were going through the words of Lee confined within a little dialogue bubble right above the head of a huge cartoon duck: ‘Graffiti is an art and if art is a crime let God forgive all.’ The fact that the painting was simply a copy of a piece that’s been long gone from the streets of New York connotes that Lee’s work has never been truly forgiven but instead condemned as a crime.
Today the canvases are the main reminder of what’s been back then during the 1970’s. Yes, the bold photos of graffiti that have been ‘erased’ from corps of the city, paintings that are today re-telling a story about a monochrome past inscribed in audacious and provocative messages that were aiming to awaken city. To shock. To shout out loud at the citizens, provoking them to snap out of the gloominess and monotony of their perfectly planned middle class lives.
I was examining the photos that have preserved the writings that were once covering the subway trams and city walls simultaneously doing my best to visualise the artist who was hanging down the wall, performing his art, expressing his soul. And yet, most of us condemn this process as pure vandalism, choosing to bury our heads in the sand and ignore the beauty of it all, the thought-provoking messages and the meanings they were carrying.
‘Learning how to paint in pitch blackness with your knees banging together, your heart in your throat, you hear a noise and it might be only a rat, but you jump out of your sneakers and you run down the length of the lane — and then you have to come back and continue painting in the dark. You develop night vision. This is not an easy feat.’ Sandra Fabara a.k.a ‘Lady Pink’.
Could you imagine the excitement of running down the subway tracks, trying to escape the city ?keepers?? Could you imagine the adrenaline rush?
The city ‘writers’ were planning out their creations before they went out to ?exploit? the city as their rightful canvas ? and yes, I did find that truly inspiring. The audaciousness of the artists ? their boldness. Their ability to write out their emotions and heart secretively during the night for the whole city to see at the sunrise.
Standing there and examining the pieces I couldn?t help but wonder ? what?s my outlet. What?s my canvas? Is it the blog? The posts I?m regularly preparing? And deep down in my heart I knew that I couldn?t have been more wrong.
Only a few weeks ago I thought I loved my life. I thought it was exciting enough, different, and surely colourful. Looking at the masterpieces I knew I was wrong. My canvas is my life. And my emotions, life encounters, laughter ? they are only a few of the things that represent the colourful spray cans from which distinctive shapes and compositions could be born.
For a fleeting moment I imagined my canvas ? it was covered with perfectly shaped monochrome forms. My idea of happiness for quite some time was indeed to love and be loved in return.
But I wondered – Could this really be enough? I finally knew the answer and it was time for me to choose another path. I took my bag and stepped back out to the street ready to feel for one last time the beating heart of the city. I knew it was the last day I was going to spend there for quite some time, but back then I chose not to trust my intuition. Instead I smiled and headed Downtown.
But you know lovely, life has its own ways to force you into the right direction. To point it out to you. And sometimes when you choose to postpone the inevitable, someone else could make the decision instead of you. So today my canvas is quite plain and white and I’m all ready to draw it all over again, forgetting the old pattern and going for something fresh and new. Something that doesn?t require ?another? one to help me splash it all in bright. Something that requires only ‘me’.
The NYC graffiti artists reminded me precisely that. To be bold. To try out something new. To find another outlet. To uncover a way to be truly happy again. I’m ready to take a spray and go for it. And you? Are you?