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Friday, February 21, 2020
For Authors, The Writing Is On The Wall
and entering. Defacing public and
private property. Trespassing.
people would say one who does those things is a criminal. The punishment? Try a reward of millions.
Mare is no ordinary criminal. He was a young graffiti artist in the late 70s and,
80s in New York City. Now he is the curator at the newly opened Museum of
Graffiti in Miami, Florida. His works of art hang in New York City’s museums.
He was interviewed in a movie and featured in a book. He’s gone legit.
recent vacation to South Florida, I revisited Wynwood, an area of Miami that was
in disarray until graffiti artists reclaimed it and turned it into a living art
gallery. The museum opened in December. I happened to catch a great tour by Mare,
who knows many of the top taggers from back in the day who now sell their works
for millions of dollars.
explained that graffiti, once the scourge of a city in decline and chaos, was
really an artform. He said it was a justifiable expression of those in poverty
and left behind. It was the voice of the people, right there, on walls, trains,
trucks, gates, and on any surface visible to the public.
grown up in New York City in the 70s and 80s, I can attest that there was some
great graffiti art out there, especially on the sides of trains. But there was
also a lot of crap. People scribbled their illegible names onto things like
storefronts, wall maps, or handball court walls. It wasn’t always art – just a
lot of spray paint plastered by youthful punks.
I get Mare’s point. Some artists – yes
they were artists – used the city landscape as their mural to paint a picture of
life that was not always pretty, to speak out for things like love and peace
and against violence and hatred. Some of
those artists got arrested (he never did) and some died young, a casualty of
the poor and violent streets they sought to rise out from.
museum is something that cold not have been imagined a few generations ago.
Police and the governments of cities across the country tried everything to
combat the graffiti, spending tons of money to clean it up or prevent its
existence. Usually, when graffiti would pop up somewhere it was a bad sign that
the city was falling further into lawlessness.
now a whole neighborhood embraces the graffiti and has risen because of it. The
museum educates and inspires its visitors and makes us see things differently. As a writer, you seek to tell a story, share
information, convey ideas, question things, and inspire others. So do these
graffiti artists. They teach us that what was once unpopular, even hated, can later
be embraced. Styles change. The nation changes. Writers – and artists – can and should always lead the way.
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