I’ve been very interested in public art since seeing the pseudo-documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop. Thus, I was struck when a DC-area street artist was recently profiled in a neighborhood blog I read. The artist, Kelly Towles, had a nice quote about what defines public art:
A lot of people hate on graffiti and vandals because they think we are destroying a place, but I don’t see it that way. Look at how much stuff is shoved down our throats everyday because of advertisements on city buses and the metro and everywhere we look. There are study groups on how to forcibly make you like something. It is ludicrous to me that we allow these messages everywhere, but we don’t let people share their own messages. I see no difference between McDonald’s ‘I’m lovin in’ and a graffiti artist who writes ‘I love you’ on the wall. Graffiti is the freest form of expression that there is. Some people want to use it to destroy and some want to use it to make life brighter. I think that it is an obligation of mine to go out and do what I do. There are a lot of people who want free art to brighten up their lives.
Irrespective of the content, how one views public art likely depends on how one views public and private property. My appreciation of public art stems from its subversive nature, both in content and in distribution. Of course, this particular street artist says he and his conspirators are discriminating about their targets:
– I don’t mess with schools and churches.
– I don’t mess with people’s personal property. But if a building becomes abandoned because someone is sitting on it waiting to make a killing in real estate, that is fair game. If they are going to neglect it, it is going to get neglected. I might as well make it prettier.
– I stay away from small businesses.
– Advertising and most city stuff is fair game.
See more of Towles’ work on his website.