Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Blight On Beauty

I'm not a fan of reality television, but I do enjoy seeing an occasional reality competition show that highlights the creative process such as Top Chef or Project Runway.   It's fascinating to me to see what talented people will create when given a certain set of parameters.

Recently I caught a Project Runway episode where the designers were brought to a  building covered in graffiti to gather inspiration for their design challenge.  The building in question was in New York City and was the city's only site for legal graffiti.  This building was covered in paint from top to bottom.  No where was any actual wall seen.  The building was just a huge jumble of designs.  Whatever harmony or symmetry in the building was lost to the paint.

I understand that graffiti is considered an art form by many and that many talented people had painted this building, but with so much crap covering that building, it was impossible to appreciate any one work of art.  When you looked at the building all you saw was a mishmash.

Graffiti is such a blight on our landscape.  No matter where you go, someone feels the need to paint a building.  Is it art?  Some of it can be quite artistic.  Some of it looks like crap.  In any case, the artist believes he or she is telling some kind of important story.  Who really cares about that story?  I see "Joe was here," on the side of a building and it really doesn't matter much to me that Joe was there.  I could see "Joe loves Jane" on the side of the building and it tells me a bit more, but I still don't care much about Joe or Jane.  It might matter to Joe's friends and family that he was there, but his friends and family don't need to read his graffiti to know his story.  Why do people feel the need to graphically tell their stories to a world that largely doesn't care?

It seems strange to me.  We live in a world where we have so many ways to express ourselves.  There are hundreds of clothing options out there that we can dress ourselves almost exactly to suit our personal style.  The same goes for jewelry.  We have so many different social media options to share everything we feel and do.  We can preserve our most precious memories with all kinds of archival websites for photo and stories.  It's even trendy to do it the old fashioned way with photo albums and scrapbooks.  Do we need to splash our thoughts and feelings and opinions all over the landscape with spray paint?

Why must everything have paintings on it?  Why not just let a beautiful building exist in its own beauty?  What will be next?  Will be begin paining murals on the side of the Taj Mahal?  Will "Joe was here," take over the statue of David or the Venus De Milo (because why stop at buildings)?

What if the building is derelict? Wouldn't some nice street art improve a rundown empty building? I can see the point of wanting to cover a derelict building, but wouldn't it be better to rehab the building from the inside out? Besides, once you start allowing someone to cover a building in street art, even the most beautiful work gets lost in the shuffle.  As I said above, that building in Brooklyn probably had some lovely work on it, but who could tell when there were just so much stuff mushed together?

Think of an art gallery or museum.  Galleries display a wide array of art, but the collections are carefully curated.  Art is not displayed in a mishmash.  Artwork is displayed for optimal use of space and piece are selected to harmonize with each other in theme and color.  You can stick too many pieces of art in one room and it will stop being so pleasing to the eye.  Even at home artwork needs balance.  Kevin and I are pretty big art aficionados and we love visiting galleries and are often tempted to buy more art.  When we find ourselves in a gallery longing for a painting, I have been known to remind him that there are some spots on our walls where we could hang it. Kevin will remind me that to hang more pictures on the wall would be to close up the white space in our apartment.  White space creates openness and light. He is right.  As a communications major, I took some classes in graphic design.  White space is critical in design and the best designs make the most use of it.

Why are we losing our sense of white space?  I look at our overpainted cities and think about how we are losing that sense of elegance, simplicity, and openness of space that is clean and unadorned.  Is making a statement worth a city full of paint?  If everyone is making a statement with spray paint, won't yours just end up being lost in a sea of graffiti?

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