Have you ever put your name or initials somewhere you shouldn’t have?
When I was young, I liked to carve my initials into things – I can recall a few trees, a wooden swing set, and a camp cabin wall. With my youth long behind me, the urge was still there when at 47, I wrote my name on some French castle ruins and on an Italian castle wall alongside some 18th-century graffiti. Even last month, I wrote my name on a Barcelona restaurant wall covered in signatures of past diners – couldn’t resist!
What is this desire (and the thrill) to put one’s name in a public place? Without getting into too much analysis here, probably it’s the human desire to be seen or not forgotten – to say “I am here” or “I was here” in a way that gets some attention, even if somewhat mischievously. From cave paintings to posting selfies, this has been going on for as long as humans have walked the earth.
As I wandered through Europe last month and saw all kinds of public expressions of “I am here” in graffiti, I thought about this desire to be seen. I wondered who these people are, what are their stories, and what propelled them to say “I am here – take notice” in this way. I wondered if they were like the teenage version of me who felt a little invisible at times, or if they were making more rebellious statements about their presence.
A few years ago, I painted 3 graffiti’ed doors from Rome and posted the before-graffiti and after-graffiti versions of these paintings, asking for reader preferences. The responses were split fairly evenly. I recall one comment stated how much more “life” was in the doors with graffiti, and this idea of “life” really stuck with me. I couldn’t look at graffiti again without being curious about the life that put it there.
And this is what I was thinking about this past few weeks as I painted 3 more graffiti doors of Rome. I wondered about the lives of Setat, Spot, Sesto, Gyspy, Alaude, Runa, Bibo, Sty Star, Almar, Omer, Wallace, Corly, and DJ Hamp?
Yes, I SEE you all! I thank you for the inspiration, and I hope you’re all doing okay!
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