5/26/11

2 Art?

My parents came to visit me in Paris at the end of my semester studying abroad, and I distinctly remember the argument conversation that my dad and I had on the train as we rode from Charles de Gaulle to my temporary Parisian home in the cultural melting pot that makes up the 19th arrondissement. For those of you who have made that train ride, you may remember the scenery because it is not what you expect it to be. Because you see, to get from Charles de Gaulle into the city, you must first ride through the outskirts. You will not see the famous images of Paris in the outskirts (you know, Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame, la Tour Eiffel, and the like); rather, you will see lots and lots of dingy, urban high rise apartment buildings that must have been built in the sixties or seventies. They are covered in lots and lots of tiny windows, not unlike the prison cell windows I remember seeing on my third grade tour of the Greenville County Jail, and most importantly (for this post at least), you will see walls and billboards (and everything else really) covered in lots and lots of graffiti. 


Honestly, the contrast you see riding into Paris is not that much unlike the contrast you see riding into downtown Charleston on Meeting Street. Admittedly, the contrast between upper Meeting Street and lower Meeting Street is not as stark as it was in years past; however, when you get off I-26 on upper Meeting Street, you see mostly run-down or otherwise vacant buildings, several of which are almost entirely enveloped in vines and still showing what appear to be the scars of Hurricane Hugo. Then, all at once, the run-down turns into the not-so-run-down, and you find yourself surrounded by the most lovely old buildings, most of which are painstakingly cared for and maintained. You know, I guess there's beauty in all of it. 


But back to the discussion that my dad and I had on the train. Naturally, it was about the graffiti. My dad found it unsightly, ugly even, but I, in all of my cosmopolitan, 20 year-old wisdom (sarcasm), found it interesting, beautiful even. I might have said something like, "dad, come on, it's art." (Oh, to be 20 again.) And because pointing out graffiti became something like that game where you call out popeyes or punch buggies on a road trip, at some point during our travels, my dad and I stood in front of a yellow van covered in graffiti and smiled for a picture. My smile says, "see, dad, graffiti is neat," while I'm pretty sure my dad's smile says, "I can't believe I sent my daughter to live in Paris for five months and all she's learned is to appreciate graffiti." 


Anyway, I recently watched Exit Through the Gift Shop, the Oscar-nominated documentary about the legendary street artist, Banksy, and it reminded me of my family's graffiti games.


And then, I guess because graffiti was on my mind, I started noticing all of the graffiti right here in Charleston. There's so much of it, and I had not really paid any attention before. And I'm not really talking about the scribbly initials and gang-sign-looking stuff. I'm talking about bizarre little statements and words repeated on sidewalks and utility boxes all over town. Here are a few examples that I see almost every day. 






You can find the "this is home" and the "never forget" examples all over this town, although in many places the salty air and the tourists' footsteps seem to be taking their toll. 


Also, if writing in wet cement counts as graffiti, then there's plenty of that in this town, too.





Yeah, I'm pretty sure Tim Tebow wasn't in town the day that cement was poured, not that he would be one to write in wet cement anyway. But regardless, I'm not 20 years old anymore, so I'm not as sure about as many things now as I was then. Do I still think of graffiti as art? I honestly don't know. What do you think?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nan - do you know what the "HOME" stuff means? I am quite curious? Groupie stuff, maybe? thanks.

Nan said...

No clue -- but I googled the "never forget" the dinosaurs thing and found a bunch of pictures of that graffiti from all over the place. Who thought of that first, I wonder.

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