Photo by Abigail Wolfenberger
By Abigail Wolfenberger
I’m just a college student. I have as much authority as my Pomeranian, all bark and no bite. Who’d listen to me? Hell, I don’t even listen to me – just ask my starved bank account about my bloated closet.
Plus, if I can only manage to do my own laundry once a month, what makes me think I can air out the world’s dirty undies every day?
I may be a college student who lacks self-control and, albeit, is somewhat…gross. But I’m also a passionate youngster, a writer who writes with purpose. I am journalist who has a voice that seeks out other voices people may overlook. Together we uncover the beauty in humanity.
Last week, I was riding on an English train from Brighton to London. Through the rain-stained window, I noticed some graffiti on the backside of an abandoned warehouse. Normally I just overlook graffiti because seeing “AJ Wuz Hurr” scribbled fifteen times in neon green paint on a dilapidated wall just pisses me off. Unless you’re Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp, I really don’t care that you’ve been “here.”
Luckily, a different breed of artist had marked his territory all over this warehouse.
Written in sky blue paint were the words “A Student Is A Teacher. A Teacher Is A Student.” Underneath was the image of a tree, a lion and a man standing side by side.
I’m not much for philosophical thinking, but, I did see a deeper meaning here.
Every living creature on this planet has knowledge, but none possess it all. We share this planet and should also share its secrets.
So here’s my secret to you: Take a second look and think before you judge.
I had always written off graffiti as scummy and in poor taste. But just like anything else, amongst the ugly there is beauty.
Once you get past the self-absorbed AJ’s, there are many skilled artists changing the world by changing structures:
1. Keeps the Old While Bringing in the New
A current trend — one I see continuing through the decades — is blending the modern generation with past, more traditional generations. If you flip through Elle Décor, walk along New York City’s streets, spend afternoons in art galleries, or even blow your pay check on weekly trips to Urban Outfitters, you have been exposed to this mixture. Century-old, brick fireplaces now burn gas fires on iron logs; sleek, asymmetrical structures neighbor ornate, rectangular buildings; da Vinci’s are transformed into Warhol’s; and printed mid-length skirts are matched with bedazzled midriff shirts. Graffiti is an expression of this new camaraderie. It puts a new face on an old body. These spray-can gagsters force the public to give a second look at a structure they once deemed as an eyesore. Graffiti is the reincarnation of inanimate objects. The old is made new. The structure can no longer perform its original intended function, so it has been given a new one. The city’s framework hasn’t changed. Only the exterior has been updated.
2. Creates an Escape for Enclosed Talent
Artists still starve! This advanced technological age is not the end all to artisan struggle. Sure, it’s ridiculously easy to globally display artwork, but there are roughly seven billion people on this Earth. How many of those billions do you think are artists? How many of those artists do you think are also reaching for fame via the Internet? Hell, I’m literally writing this blog while wondering how many people will read it. Think about Google’s images. You couldn’t possibly count the amount of photos. There just isn’t a number for that magnitude. Therefore, how long will it take for your one image to light up someone’s screen? When it has been seen, what will keep that someone from forgetting your image once he or she has clicked the red X?
Graffiti artists don’t encounter this problem. These images exist until the building is torn down or someone else sprays over it. Think of the tourists who take pictures of it on their vacations. Think of the residents who take glances of it on their daily commutes. The artwork is seen millions of times a day.
There’s a famous street artist who goes by the name Banksy. His graffiti art has become so popular that people have printed pictures of his work on tee shirts. In fact, London has even created a bus route that takes passengers to all of Banksy’s creations in the city. He travels the world, leaving a mark wherever he goes. With an opinion, a can of spray paint and an old wall, Banksy influenced the entire world.
3. Expresses and Inspires Freedom of Speech
Our ancestors fought for our right to speak freely, so why not show some gratitude by expressing this right as vibrantly as we possibly can? You don’t have to present the Gettysburg Address or even write a blog on graffiti, but you could very well create the graffiti the blogs are talking about. Let your voice be heard even if you aren’t actually speaking. That’s why I’m a writer. Shy, awkward me would much rather stare at a naked screen than a naked audience. If you don’t want to say it, you can spray it! The message I saw on the warehouse wall greatly impacted me to the point where I am now writing about it. The image made me realize that I do have a voice, and that I do want people to hear it. I may just be starting to find my way, but that doesn’t make my way insignificant. How many other travelers on passing trains have seen the same painted warehouse? How many of them were encouraged to speak their minds as well? Below this paragraph, I have attached an original Banksy piece. Interpret it as you wish.
Now, tell the world what you feel. Tell us what you want to say.