Illegal graffiti is art. In your Sept. 10 Artys 2009 issue, City Weekly praised art genres such as “best artistic hair design,” “best beer and wine pairing” and “best high fashion junk.”
I appreciate all forms of art and creativity. However, when reading this year’s winners, I couldn’t help but feel that some of Salt Lake City’s most innovative, daring and committed artists were being left out. As offended as some people may be by the Salt Lake “graff” scene, it is growing here just as the art form has been growing around the world for the past 40 years.
Every major city is slowly but surely changing its colors. Graffiti is more than a genre but rather a true art renaissance. Considering the number of artists involved (thousands), the geographic scope and the many cultural implications it has helped create, I find the word “renaissance” almost too small.
For many, it is a way of life. Groundbreaking Salt Lake City pioneers like Guts, Snipe, Kuhr, Kiar, Aster, Endur and dozens of others have blazed trails for a new generation of writers. Often risking their freedom, and even their lives, newer artists like Animal, Extol, Duke, Oxen, Le Coup, Phuze, Scrol, Newbie, Poise and many more are busy fighting the good fight on their own terms.
This hasn’t gone without real sacrifice. Many artists are up against increasingly draconian prosecution, facing felony charges. Convictions in Salt Lake City now can lead not just to jail, but prison. The state clearly recognizes the power of this art to change the world and is showing more willingness to use tactics of repression.
Led by the gang task force, Salt Lake City’s police are conducting surveillance on MySpace and Facebook, harassing businesses that have given permission for artists to paint, arresting artists at legal permission walls, and in a recent case, holding a suspect on a $5 million bail while an accused child murderer was held on only $2 million in the same jail at the same time.
In my opinion, the essence of graffiti is artists taking back the world that has been stolen from them one neighborhood or train at a time. Personally, I find billboards that lure young people into the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations, encourage unsustainable consumption and prop-up corporate-bought politicians much more “offensive” then the art that is said to deface them.
It’s time for Salt Lake City to embrace this renaissance that it is powerless to stop. Communities that have done this like in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, London, etc., are enjoying a higher quality of art. If you see work you don’t like, then do something better. After all, this is supposed to be a free country.
If only those voices that are preapproved and paid for can be heard then, collectively, we could be in serious trouble. A few tips for artists on the way to fame: avoid painting people’s houses, cars, churches, etc. If we stick to only targeting city and corporate property, we’ll win more allies in the long run. If you’re arrested, politely ask for a lawyer. Talking to police could ruin your life.
Keep it up, you brave souls—we’re winning! Free Gore and Solv now!
Name Withheld Upon Request