Vandal or Artist?

It is popularly recognized that California, Los Angeles and Venice Beach in particular, is filled with creative artists who are working to make a living off of their artistic endeavors. The freedom of self-expression often extends far beyond the studio and reaches out into every facet of the city.

The photograph shows a line of palm trees in the sand. The most eye-catching part of this photo is the abundance of graffiti in the foreground. There is a large barrel on the left side, which is presumably a trashcan, but its purpose is not entirely clear. There is a short wall behind the receptacle. The shot is taken from the sand, facing the street. There is a line of buildings in the background and there is a man sitting in the background on the right side. In the graffiti you can see letters sprayed onto the trees. It is difficult to make out any words and it could be presumed that it is the artist’s signature. Much of the paint is overlapping, increasing the difficulty to identify individual drawings. The trees closer to the street remain unpainted.

Hundreds of artists line the streets of Venice Beach, California. Whether it is painting portraits of anyone who is willing to sit down or setting up a live band performance, there is always someone trying to share their gifts. Many talented people remain unrecognized and struggle to find work, so they turn to drastic measures to spread their ideas. In many circumstances, what is pictured could be viewed as mindless vandalism but the location of the graffiti alters the perspective. The whole area seems to operate on a different plane than the rest of the world. Many things that normally are considered socially unacceptable are abundant in places like Venice Beach. There are many working, iconic performers out in Southern California who have achieved fame and fortune but for every famous actor there are dozens trying to get their name out and find work. It is a difficult, often cutthroat business and those who are just keeping their heads above water occasionally resort to dramatic ways of sharing their talents. There is no guarantee that they will receive validation for what they are doing. They might even be scorned if the way you choose to express is like in the photo above. But some might view the inability to create as a worse punishment than any legal fine or sitting behind a desk from 9:00- 5:00 every day.

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One comment

  1. You did a good job of explaining the culture and incentive of artists to share their works with the world regardless of dangers that might be attributed to street art like graffiti. Graffiti is an interesting art form because of the illegality of it artists sign their name in ways so that only other graffiti artists can recognize and read them. It is also often tied to gangs and groups which can sometimes be violent towards each other or victims of violence and harassment by the police. Referencing the paint on top of paint is a very important part of graffiti because it is actually a war of paint with people constantly trying to overwrite each other.

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