I was recently asked to answer some questions for a friend’s college class report or final project or something like that. Please keep in mind that I wrote my answers to these questions around 1am after driving to Costa Mesa and back in one day (about 7 hours roundtrip).
Question 1. Always the first question, do you think Graffiti is art? Obviously this is a complex question. There is clearly more than one “type” of Graffiti. Vandalism, gang, artistic, tagging, stenciling etc… 1a. Do you condone or feel that one form is “better than another”?
Answer: I define art as “a creative expression”. By that definition the creator is the one who says that something they do is art or isn’t art. And I feel the argument should end there. Of course, most observers don’t see it my way and ignorantly label things based on their own terms, which are usually chock full of personal opinions and bias. Yes, it’s a complex question because what one person considers art another person might not, in which case it’s best to get the info straight from the horse’s mouth. If my “art” was spinning around on my head in the middle of the street then it’s my decision on what to call such an act and if I chose to call it “art” I could easily defend it as my own type of “creative expression.” When it comes to graffiti I have a hard time considering gang related territorial type tagging “art” based on the fact that the person writing on the wall is not creatively expressing themself. They’re marking their territory by vandalizing property in most cases.
1a. I would never condone vandalizing other peoples personal property, but when it comes to public spaces I can accept it so long as it’s kept within boundaries. For instance, if a stop sign is so covered in stickers that it’s no longer readable as a stop sign, which could cause an accident, then it’s bad. If people want to decorate electrical boxes with their art I’m all for it. Those things are an eyesore to our urban landscape. If people want to express themselves by painting a wall in a tunnel or on one of those plywood walls around construction sites and things of that nature then I’m all for it. Unfortunately, it’s still illegal. As for one form of graffiti being better than another I think it’s all a matter of personal preference. For me I’m a bigger fan of stencils and spray painted characters than I am of tagging and people writing their name. But one is not better than another.
Question 2. Explain your gallery and what you do (or your art style/experience).
Answer: I opened my own gallery because it seemed to be the best way to sell my art since no galleries in town would show my work. I’m a huge D.I.Y (do-it-yourself) advocate so it made a lot of sense to me to set up shop and represent my own work. I’m also a big fan of sleeping in till 10am and making my own hours, so it’s the perfect job. When I started I only had original work available and over the years I’ve branched out into producing a lot of D.I.Y. merchandise like screenprinted shirts, stickers, keychains, magnets, prints, posters, hats, handmade wallets, buttons, etc. I also sell a lot of art books featuring artists or art movements that I’m a fan of. If you want a Picasso book go to Barnes & Noble. If you want a book documenting the Icelandic street art movement or “The Gangsta Rap Coloring Book” come to my gallery. The newest addition to the gallery is Montana spray paint and a variety of spray paint caps. I feel that as long as I offer unique items that are hard to find in this town then I haven’t lost my integrity.
Recently I hosted a group show featuring 19 local artists and it was a very rewarding experience on many levels. It gave some artists a chance to showcase their creations in a “safe” setting, as opposed to on the street where they might get arrested. It also gave the artists a chance to network and meet other like-minded people they might have not been able to meet before. And some artists made some money, which is always nice.
Question 3. Do you think San Luis Obispo has an increase in graffiti recently or is it just hype?
Answer: I don’t think SLO has had any increase in graffiti, but I do think people are becoming more aware of it. In other words, it’s been there all along and now that it’s been mentioned in the papers and shown up on the evening news people are starting to notice it.
Question 4. What do you think some of the solutions could be for fixing our graffiti problem?
Answer: I think constructing some legal walls would be the first place to start. They could be in publicly visible areas so interested people didn’t have to go out of their way to see the art and if that didn’t work they could be off the beaten path if some people thought the legal walls were an eyesore. The artists wouldn’t care where they were so long as they knew they could perfect their craft without the risk of being arrested. Also, I think it should be legal in all the tunnels around SLO. If not all the tunnels at least some specific ones. They are out of the public view and having them painted doesn’t do any harm to anybody. Public skate parks have cut down on the street skating in the downtown area and legal walls would cut down the graffiti in the downtown area. The problem, of course, is that it wouldn’t obliterate the problem, so I could see people arguing about what a waste of time and money it would be to construct legal graffiti walls if the hoodlums are still going to graffiti the town. I don’t want to give away all my ideas, but I do think it would be a step in the right direction if the city sponsored events like letting people paint all those electrical boxes around town and schools could let artists decorate their handball courts. Every time I drive by a school those big walls in the middle of the playground (the handball courts) look like they’re just asking to get painted.
Question 5. Any other comments on SLO or its graffiti or graffiti in general.
Answer: My comment on SLO and its graffiti is “if you can’t beat em, join em.” I think it’s time the city work hand in hand with the artists to provide spaces for them the same way bike lanes (and bike paths costing $1000′s) have been provided, skate parks have sprouted up, and parking garages have been constructed so the overflowing of cars don’t take over the residential areas in the downtown area.