The way I first discovered the world of street art was surprisingly, not on the street. It was when I walked into a bookstore one day and saw a book entitled “Icepick: Icelandic Street Art.” The front cover was full of strange, abstracted, but strangely realistic pieces of “street art” so I judged this book by its cover and purchased it. For the next several days I became totally obsessed with every aspect of the book and began to research this secretive form of art. I even began trying to recreate some of the pieces I saw or work off the photos to create some designs of my own. It was the most inspiring thing I have ever come across.
Then just the other day I was at Blockbuster renting a movie and I saw a film called “Exit Through the Gift Shop.” It is a documentary about street art and includes interviews with the most famous street artists alive. So of course, I excitedly checked out this movie and watched a man who knew nothing about street art, create his very own pieces and sell a million dollars’ worth of art in only a few months. This is when I realized how big this type of art is getting. Banksy, the most well-known and celebrated artist, had celebrities like Jude Law, Angelina Jolie, and many others show up to his first gallery in the United States. One of his exhibits included a full grown, painted elephant. Art is evolving. Banksy is transforming art by using many different forms, painting elephants, and basically decorating our world. As with any kind of art, street art has many different forms. This can include: stencil graffiti, sticker art, wheat pasting, street poster art, street installations, video projection, and many others.
The question is: Is this vandalism and should it stay illegal in the U.S.?
I say no. Street art is very difficult to control so why keep trying? If it is appropriate for all ages and not offensive material (which it generally is not), it is not hurting anyone. There are a lot of people like me who would love to see street art driving to work or just walking down the street. I strongly believe in freedom of expression and I really think if people just knew more about this topic, they might feel the way I do about it. If it cannot be legal, I think it should at least be tolerated in more places.
However, people who are against street art may not understand the difference between the terms “graffiti” and “tagging” in comparison to “street art.” “Tagging” refers to writing a name on a building and “graffiti” tends to be more offensive and gang related. Street art however, is something much more tasteful and appreciated by the masses. Street art is free art. You don’t have to pay to see it in a museum; it’s right on the street where you live. There will always be parents worried about what their children will be exposed to but street art is usually not used to portray offensive material. It is an abstract form of art. In some places, it is not even enough to have the property owner’s permission to display street art on their building but the artist also might also need to apply for a permit.
For more information on street art, the film “Exit Through the Gift Shop” films many well-known street artists on the streets and contains interviews as well. To see some of Banksy’s art, visit his website, http://www.banksy.co.uk/menu.html.
*Published in Lake Park High School’s Perspective student newspaper, 2010.