Let Us Spray | News | Salt Lake City Weekly
Support the Free Press.
Facts matter. Truth matters. Journalism matters.
Salt Lake City Weekly has been Utah's source of independent news and in-depth journalism since 1984.
Donate today to ensure the legacy continues.


Let Us Spray

All over the sprawling Salt Lake suburbs, the writing’s on the wall(s).



Page 3 of 8

{::NOAD::}In the Beginning
Modern graffiti hit Salt Lake City like a smack in the face. Nancy White, Salt Lake County’s graffiti program manager, says there was little graffiti here before the early 1990s. But, for over a decade, White and her crew of two have been busy covering up every tag that finds its way on to buildings and signs in the county. Her tactic is to paint over graffiti as soon as it goes up.

Despite spending countless hours combating this crime, White has come to see it as more than simple vandalism. “If you’re involved with it, you see everything,” she says. She knows the difference between gang graffiti and, say, Kier’s graffiti. She recognizes certain names and tags. She seems to have developed an uneasy respect for writers and has even appeared recently with writers on a KRCL 90.9 FM radio program. “There’s a culture to graffiti,” she says. “They seem to have ethics. I think I hadn’t thought of that.”

All the same, graffiti remains a crime. Most view it as vandalism degrading the environment, and it’s been White’s job since the program was initiated in 1993 to clean it up. “The one thing about graffiti is that it’s such an emotional thing,” she says. “If graffiti shows up in a neighborhood, people have, all of a sudden, moved to the wrong neighborhood.”

Modern graffiti came to town with two writers named Slej and Ego. Their style differed from what anyone had seen previously. They tagged their names in fonts of their own design. And they did throw-ups—big colored-in paintings of their tags and pieces. Before Slej and Ego, graffiti in Salt Lake City mainly consisted of bad gang tags and run-of-the-mill graf. After Slej and Ego, nothing was the same. They were Salt Lake City’s first kings.

“You ask anyone,” Kier says. “Slej is the triple OG.” Indeed. Slej is currently serving jail time for a stabbing. Ego, according to Kier, has dropped from sight and is nowhere to be found.

On a wall around the corner from Kier’s spaceship, one of the county’s earliest throw-ups crumbles like ancient history. It may be the longest-running example of this type of graffiti in the county. A fairly simple painting, its thick letters cross over one another with a subtly abstract effect. It is nothing compared to the murals around the corner, but for the time it was like nothing else.