I went down to the city yesterday with my friend, after much coaxing (you can read about that here). I was so excited, however, he did refuse to leave the car in Humboldt Park so I went into the little grocery store on Central Park and Division all by myself. I didn’t mind, I love that store! It’s really like going to a different country, English is a second language there since everyone is speaking Spanish, the music is Spanish, even the food, everything is different, something you don’t see by my house, in my neighborhood.
My point in going down there was to look at and photograph more graffiti art and murals from the Meeting of the Styles 2012, there are 4 different locations, I visited 3. You can read more about that here. The Meeting of the Styles is basically a massive meeting of graffiti artists from around the world and they come together for a weekend to create their art. I believe this is a beautiful, positive thing in a neighborhood. First of all, I feel like the entire taboo of graffiti art is beginning to disappear. I feel like when people see graffiti they immediately assume that it is gang related and think of violence and negativity while this work is something beautiful, positive and has nothing to do with any gangs.
However, at the second spot we went to at 30th and Kedzie, I’m not sure what neighborhood I was in, the artwork started out beautiful and as I followed the wall which wrapped around to the next street over from Kedzie and what I saw what broke my heart. Many of these pieces of art had been vandalized by the local gang. They drew their markings, threats and insults, not only that included tattoos upon the portraits that were paints to beautifully on the walls. They spent their time adding their talentless scribbles to beautiful pieces of art.
There was one which just stood out to me, from all the others, all of the colors and shapes and faces. It was of a woman on a black background. Her face was soft and brown, her hair pulled back tight and black as the background. Her eye stared unblinking at you, straight at you. Eventually her soft brown skin slowly melted into a skeleton and those bone features moved up to the other side of her face, where her other eye stared at you as this big hole in her beautiful head. However, on either side of her, in their bright color were 3 letters from the gang and they marked her skin with tattoos, their meaning as horrible as the letters which surrounded her head. They turned her into a symbol of something so horrible, a symbol of murder and violence Luckily, I was able to take a picture of her without the lettering and I was able to remove the tattoos that had been added.
What has been done was so sad to me, there were some I couldn’t even photograph because the damage that was done was too extensive and I couldn’t remove it digitally. This art which could be something positive and set an example for kids to do the art they love in positive ways. Not only that, but to destroy and vandalize something that is so beautiful.
One more thing I want to say about my trip there. When I was photographing this wall, a mom and her son walked by me and her son just stopped and watched me for a bit. He was probably 9 or 10. Then came right up and asked what I was doing. When I told him I was taking picture he asked me why? This was a strange and unexpected question to me because to me its obvious, aside from the vandalism, there is real art there, that is beautiful. I’m not sure if he was just curious or thought I didn’t know what exactly I was photographing and that I thought the gang markings were the ‘beautiful art’ because I couldn’t tell the difference or because he sees this every day and it’s just something normal to him. It was just a little moment that made me think and wonder.
Anyway, there are so many beautiful pieces of art in the city neighborhoods, appreciate them for the talent and beauty and times that goes into them.