- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Adrian M. Fenty, a member of the D.C. Council, apparently did not receive the memo on graffiti after coming out against the blight that is growing in various neighborhoods in Northwest.

The Ward 4 Democrat’s position shows an incredible lack of sophistication.

Haven’t you heard that graffiti is art with a spray can?

The alienated youths of the city have so many creative impulses and only so many ways to express them, often on the side of a building that does not belong to them.

Their self-esteem is at stake in the war on graffiti. The next Picasso may be out there. We should not try to discourage this artistic bent. Instead, we should try to nurture it. We should be reaching out to the “artists.”

The enlightened ones first came to this touchy-feely sentiment a generation ago. They saw vast meaning in the markings and threatened to legitimize the practice. They studied these so-called works of “art” and lent their flatulent interpretations to the cause.

There was such pain in the works, which is essential in quality art.

Give art critics a measure of pain, and they will give you a good review.

Jackson Pollock’s pain, if you recall, was the subject of a Hollywood movie, although all he ever did was buy several buckets of paint and throw it on a canvas in slipshod fashion.

He mostly was the town drunk, lugging around all sorts of pain, the reasons not clear.

There was a certain symmetry to it in the end. He was a mess, not unlike his paintings, which made him a genius.

In a way, it is not unlike that with graffiti “artists,” only they are interested in things beyond being the town drunk.

They might kill you or each other. But no one is perfect, not even the “artists” of the streets.

With them, it is about the art. The art carries a higher purpose than a body count. We all have to go sometime, although to be honest, too many of the graffiti “artists” appear to be more in a hurry to get there than the rest of us.

It is a tortured-artist thing. You wouldn’t understand.

It is society’s fault anyway. You know that to be so with the graffiti “artists.”

Their parents failed them, their schools failed them, their churches failed them, you failed them, the guy in a pickup truck in West Virginia failed them, and so all they have is each other and a can of spray paint.

To many, a can of spray paint is a can of spray paint. To a graffiti “artist,” a can of spray paint is the quintessential instrument of being at one with the urban landscape. One can helps build weak minds 12 ways.

The property owners of the city fail to grasp this. They do not appreciate the beauty of it all. They do not recognize the primal nature of it all, the so-called “tags” that indicate a group’s claim on the neighborhood.

Dogs complete a similar function with fire hydrants, marking one, then re-marking it, sending messages back and forth to each other, until it becomes embarrassing to the dog owners standing in a line that curls around a block from the fire hydrant in question.

In less-squishy times, we would not be holding a discussion on the meaning of graffiti.

But the movement to make graffiti something other than a criminal act is entrenched.

As one supporter of graffiti puts it, “The only difference between vandalism and art is permission.”

That is a fairly amusing distinction.

It is doubtful the graffiti “artists” would embrace that distinction if someone employed a can of spray paint on one of their possessions, such as a vehicle.

Given their considerable pain, they probably would respond in a highly negative fashion.

That is the real world, as opposed to the contrived one championed by the adherents of graffiti.

It is wrong to deface property, private or public, with a can of spray paint.

We all pay for the unsightly mess in the end, store owners and taxpayers alike.

Mr. Fenty, to his credit, is leading a worthy fight to rid the streets of it.

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