Finding graffiti in the Bronx is like looking down at the sidewalk to see all the black circular gum spots, it’s in abundance. In a community like this tagging is a form of expression. The taggers by tagging a place confirm their existence, even while the rest of New York might have forgotten about them. When I first laid my eyes on the graffiti my gaze automatically shifted toward the words “Ghetto 4 Life”.
Even before I began to appreciate its worth, I was mesmerized by the bold red lettering like a house-fly drawn to light. It was almost as if the artist wrote the words with blood. Graffiti is hard to read, just some words or the taggers name scribbled together in a hurry probably in the brink of darkness. However, this one was thought out, everything about this was planned.
As my gaze left the letters, I saw two figures drawn as part of the graffiti, one was a little boy spray painting the words “GHETTO 4 LIFE” the other was his servant holding a tray with two spray paint tending to his master. The boy almost the age of seven, whose face, is hidden by the shadow cast by the building. Dressed akin to “British schoolboy” with shorts, a sports jacket, and a beret.
The servant is crouched over in a very obedient and ridged like structure. His slick black hair complements his black attire, while his hands are covered with white gloves; his peach color skin also signifies he is white. The message behind the graffiti is trying to state, you can take the boy out of the Bronx, but you can’t take the Bronx out of the boy. This ghetto neighborhood runs thru his veins, all around his body.
This message is true for all. We are the product of our environment. We can interpret this as the young boy is at a disadvantage for being born into this neighborhood. The odds are stacked up against him no matter who is supporting him. To many, it’s a form of language, art the unspoken language that can convey a message. Unfortunately, the thing about art is it’s locked up in museums, sometimes only catering to the rich.
What gives art its value? The art we see in museums is a modern invention. Like all things in today’s capitalistic society, it has been turned into a commodity. Art has always been used to express the creative skills and imagination of humans. Going back to our roots when the first humans drew cave paintings, they were expressing their emotions and appreciating the beauty of nature around them.
We must fall back to the origin of art. Graffiti is the oldest form of art. It is unfortunate many find graffiti degrading to a neighborhood we must embrace graffiti as a form of art and encourage it. Like cave paintings are archaeological gold mines today, maybe one day graffiti is will be unearthed to tell our stories.