Across the span of human history, making marks and signs through scratching or inking surfaces has put individuals into context in their environments. For many young people, their own names are the first words they learn to write. We spent Tuesday afternoons this summer marking surfaces and inscribing names in an exploration of the art of graffiti.
Graffiti, in the contexts of contemporary street art and hip-hop culture, exhibits the necessity of human expression, the sharing of ideas against all odds, and the immense creativity and artistic skill used to wield materials in the street. In that it is impermanent and can be dangerous or even illegal, it reminds us of the lengths to which humans will go to express themselves, to claim a place as their own.
There were obvious challenges to creating hands-on experiences with traditional graffiti methods and materials, but with a focus on inscribing names on surfaces, we made our marks. Using books and documentary photographs from my own archive, we broadened the context to consider some of those off-limits materials and venues. I hope to have shared the deep inspiration I take from this art-against-all-odds and perhaps to have fueled the future of claiming space with names and beautiful letters.