secret art


Graffiti is the secret art of our time. Tucked away on back walls or appearing suddenly in plain sight, it is part of the unexpected. There used to be a huge long graffiti wall in our town next to the train tracks, out of the sight of most citizens unless you happened along that out-of-the-way street off Lakeville, and then, what an amazing surprise. One kid procured permission to paint there and then it became a mecca for artists from all over the Bay Area, who painted hundreds of layers over the years. A few years ago, anti-graffiti people painted over it and created an explosion of tagging throughout the town that hasn’t stopped yet. Here are some photos taken by Scott of what the wall used to look like. wall photos

A subculture taking over public space, the dominant culture reacts. Creativity always prevails. It’s a complex subject, not really as cut-and-dry as it seems. Some of it is obviously art, some seems to be almost art, some is tagging (its own strange art), but it is all linked. Piece by Piece, a doc by filmmaker Nic Hill, explains the history of SF graffiti and some of the underlying motives. We showed the film to a packed house last spring at the local weekly film series. Adults and kids alike were captivated.

I’ve seen two little works in particular around town that I liked, one was a stencil of the Virgin of Guadalupe on the ballet studio door, the other was a tag in pink paint pen on the outdoor phone booth at pinky’s pizza that had a nice swirl at the bottom. It looked like the person had a natural affinity with the pen. I’ve seen that one other places and appreciated it but I really liked that it was at pinky’s in pink.

On the top of the Phoenix Theater is a huge beautiful mural painted by two of the town’s preeminent graffiti artists. It is a sort-of secret because you can’t really see it up there unless you get on top of the hill or climb up to the roof. You can see a corner of it when you walk by if you are looking up at the sky instead of at the ground. If you are driving, (unless you are driving down keller street and look up) you will probably never see it.

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2 thoughts on “secret art

  1. all these years i’ve lived here and never noticed that!

    i never thought about the connection between the increased tagging in town and the obliteration of the graffiti garden by the tracks…

    there is one that really caught my eye on one of the buildings across from whole foods– if you’re going towards town you can see it on your left high up and green…

  2. Well, don’t be too worried, the piece on the Phoenix was just painted a month ago! Graffiti garden–what a great name…

    A lot of tagging is ugly and it’s freaky for parents to think about their kids getting caught doing it, but graffiti and tagging is just a reclaiming of public space and a statement from a parallel culture, usually in areas that have been abandoned by the dominant culture to begin with. It can’t hurt to listen to what it is saying.

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