A few years ago, Graffiti took a kind of hold over my imagination.
I don't know any graffiti writers. I grew up in a suburb of strivers; we were none of us risk takers when it came to the law. We chose government-approved paths towards recognition: grades, college. Networking. Auditions. That's me. I throw dinner parties, I go to sample sales. I would sooner move to Madison, WI than write my name on the side of a bridge.
I am afraid of heights, for one. And toxins. And the law.
But I got into graffiti anyway. Not the products of it, because really, I couldn't care less, but the motivation behind it. Because while some of us are content to lead basically happy lives, hoping that the triumphs outweigh the setbacks, job, spouse, home, etc, others of us suffer from the plague of grandiosity. Those of us in the latter category, and I say us with a head shake and sigh at my own unfortunate inclusion therein, picked up the notion somewhere that we were meant to live a large, bubble-lettered life. So we get MFAs or don't. We make things in our basements, in coffee shops. We have ideas for screenplays. We get the kind of jobs that could never be mistaken for a serious career: Art Handler, Barista, Personal Assistant, passing time until we are launched into the stratosphere.
And the project of the graffiti writer is just a simplified version of that exact desire.
Look at me. That's a tag. Know my name. I am alive.
I was going to write this blog about Dash Snow, an "artist", famous for doing a bunch of drugs and sleeping with a bunch of women and letting his friend take naked pictures of him. He died last week. He's an admittedly annoying figure. Heroin overdose at 27, he has a daughter named Secret, he would do go into hotel rooms and shred a bunch of phone books and do fistfuls of ecstasy until he felt like a hamster, his family is one of the richest in the country. A friend told me that his original proposal for the Whitney Biennial was to display drug paraphernalia: needles, coke, straws. Irritating, right? The whole mess. It just makes you roll your eyes.
But he was a graffiti writer. He started out trying to get famous by writing his name boldly all over town. I feel like that says something.
His friend, Ryan McGinley, who is actually a legitimately badass photographer said this about him, which I thought was interesting:
One of my favorite things about Dash was always his unconscious moving hand. He would be sitting there smoking cigarettes, writing his tag in the air without being aware of it. I would just smile and watch the smoke twirl into the letters S A C E. That’s how I’ll always remember him.