LANSING, MI — Graffiti n. pl. graf·fi·ti (-t) – A drawing or inscription made on a wall or other surface, usually so as to be seen by the public. Often used in the plural.
To most people, graffiti is seen as vandalism…to many others graffiti is seen as an art form. According to the definition, it is simply a symbol of expression meant for public display. Is it vandalism or an art form?
Close your eyes and think about some of the graffiti you have seen over the years. Where have you seen it? Can you remember the exact phrase, picture and/or words embossed on the canvas of the graffiti artists’ choice? Do you ever conjure up feelings, emotions or thoughts about the drawings or inscriptions you have seen? Have you ever felt the passion of the artist? If you can not recall your recollections of these drawings, you have always discounted these drawings as eyesores or have never experienced the emotional affects of these works, taker a closer look and see what you see at second glance. Graffiti has been around for hundreds of years, but only evolved in its current form, towards the latter half of the 1960s. Ever since that time, graffiti has become a lot more popular among the adolescent crowd. Currently, graffiti is not readily accepted as an art form, like other works that are found in galleries or museums. However, if one looks back to the origins of graffiti, back to the beginning of human existence, one can see that graffiti is one of the purest forms of art. Graffiti has been found on ancient Egyptian monuments, in caves throughout North America, and preserved on the walls in Pompeii. Even looking into the less archival history, one can say that Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel played a role in the history of graffiti. Although society places a significant historical and artistic value on the works on centuries past, very few individuals see the current form of graffiti as art. Michael Scieszka sees the currentform of graffiti from a different perspective.
Scieszka, a local Lansing artist, specializes in numerous forms of artwork, ranging from watercolors to gouache to photographs. Many of his photographs focus on works of graffiti.
“Graffiti is one of the most different, beautiful and transitory forms of art, as its use of color and composition are absolutely remarkable”, Scieszka states. Different colors are always very prevalent in works of graffiti because of the number of artists contributing their talent and artistic perspective to a finished product. Generally, two to four artists work on one design, with a sketch artist doing the basic drawing and one or two artists filling in the interior. Scieszka admits that completing a work of graffiti is “one of the greatest expressions of individual, yet collective talent”.
Scieszka has closely studied graffiti work ever since he discovered its elegance while riding his bicycle along the countryside. His discovery was completely accidental, as he noticed graffiti in the backgrounds of perspective photos he was shooting of older industrial buildings. “The graffiti in the backgrounds just struck me from the photographs, so I started focusing more of my photographs on that art form.”
Transitory is one of the ways in which Scieszka describes graffiti because of the transitory nature of how graffiti artists work. “Graffiti canvases are typically moving targets, with many artists choosing freight trains.” In other words, canvases are only temporary. Being an artist himself, Scieszka has a hard time conceptualizing, psychologically, how an artist can express themselves so emotionally, yet be willing to lose a finished product without the solace of its personal gratification. Scieszka hopes that his graffiti photographs are able to capture these tangible artistic works in perpetuity.
In addition to the tangible, aesthetic values of graffiti photographs, Scieszka points to some of the social benefits. Simply exposing a constituency unfamiliar to graffiti artwork is reason for taking the photographs. By taking photographs, “a form of art, that may have never been considered art, can be presented to the public in a gallery forum, thereby displaying the beauty of the art and work without the perceived negative distractions of the environment”. Additionally, for an artist, being able to provide a concrete portfolio of drawings to potential buyers or recruiters, can give a graffiti artist legal options and opportunities for utilizing their talents in other forums.
A collection of graffiti photographs can be seen on display throughout the Lansing area galleries on occasion. A visit to the Gone Wired Café will enable you to see a few pieces of Scieszka’s work on display.
Is graffiti art or is it vandalism? If it is in the form of a photograph, will it change your perspective? Can the graffiti artists of today become the next Michangelo’s of tomorrow? Take a look at the graffiti photographs and see if your opinion has changed. It is your decision.
For more information on Mike Scieszka’s works, please visit www.pathartandphotos.com