Last Saturday I had the honor of being Freshly Pressed. Many thanks are in order: to Cheri at WordPress; to everyone who read, “liked” or reblogged my post on street art; to my new subscribers (welcome!); and especially to the more than 200 readers who took the time to comment.
But what most surprised me was the amount of interaction my post inspired — and the passion many of you expressed in your comments.
I was intrigued by the guy who wrote, “They WERE pieces of art until they got ‘chained up’ in a gallery and ‘validated’ by the establishment! Surely the whole point of street art is that its OUTSIDE the galleries, scrawled across the cityscape, making a stand for the little man?”
I also heard from a few people who see it as vandalism, not art: “I don’t like it. There is a lot of really hostile crap out there. … If you are naïve and live in a nice part of town you can still find it charming. Until someone paints a vagina on your garage door.”
I’d also be angry if someone spray-painted obscenities on my home or my car, so I really can sympathize.
In fact, there was only one comment with which I couldn’t at all sympathize:
When the person who made the decision to paint onto someones private property gets caught, and then gets their ass beaten and bloodied, at that point the artist becomes the art. That’s the kind of art that I can appreciate.”
I guess there’s some comfort in knowing that only 0.5% of my readers would rather see a human being vandalized than a wall.
Still … because the idea of vandalism resonated so strongly with so many of you, I’d like to introduce you to an artist who used to create graffiti, but who has now turned to a less-destructive medium: Light.
(Note: All of the photos that follow are property of the artist.)
Twin Cities Brightest (“TCB”) works primarily in the “twin cities” of Minneapolis and St. Paul, in the northern U.S. After stumbling across his work on Flickr a couple of years ago, I wrote to inquire about his background, his inspiration and his techniques. To my surprise he wrote back — and then met me for lunch.
The son of a painter and a photographer, TCB grew up steeped in the visual arts. But it wasn’t until he began skateboarding that he started “to look at the world differently.” In his quest for skating venues, he began exploring urban locations most people didn’t even notice.
He found some like-minded artists while studying at the College of Visual Arts in St. Paul. “I was meeting a lot of people who were painting and doing graffiti … but I was never into the destruction that much,” he said. “You’re not going to tag on sandstone, on a 100-year-old bridge. That would be mean — and it wouldn’t look good anyway.”
He eventually abandoned graffiti. “But I still liked the locations,” he said. And that’s how he discovered light painting.
“I was exploring … this tunnel in St. Paul. We were just walking through the tunnel and I think my camera was just set on automatic. Because it was really dark it was going to take a 30-second photo. So I clicked [the shutter] and it just keeps going and someone’s walking with a flashlight. The photo [was] totally out of focus, but I looked at it and saw that my friend had sort of created this trail as we were walking, and it was really cool. That was my first light painting where I realized what I was doing — or what I could do, I guess.”
The experience sparked an idea. “I went to AxMan Surplus on Snelling and picked up a tripod, which I realized I needed. … And the next day I realize that the camera only takes 30-second exposures, and I need a cable release. And then I’m picking up all these weird lights from AxMan and waving them around with friends.”
“But the funny thing was that you’re doing it in the middle of the day in these tunnels, which are dark. It was just perfect because I wasn’t doing graffiti anymore, but I was still in these locations. And it was even more fun. I’d never seen anything like it … it was all new. All of the colors were super-vivid, and … it doesn’t run out. It’s not like you have six cans and you come with two scraps. And then it lives there, you know?”
Since I met him a year ago July, TCB has created a couple of tutorials. Here’s how you can make a spirograph like the one below, for starters.
He’s also branched out to develop what he calls “light art performance photography.” Check out the extensive gallery of images, like this one, on his website.
When I meet people like TCB, I feel grateful to live in a community that gives artists the freedom to explore and push their creative boundaries. And I feel lucky to live in an age when we can use a platform like WordPress to build a global community of curious, engaged, and truly engaging people.