Tag. You’re Banksy. Or, Graffiti Parenting.

Banksy street artEach day in October, the street artist Banksy will unveil a piece in his New York City-wide installation, “Better Out Than In.” His colloquial title pairs nicely with his often wry critique of the ordinary and the expected. The quippish title also toys with that linguistic meeting of the popular and the fringe: if Britons excuse themselves with “better out than in,” graffiti artists “throw up” their works. In a perfectly inappropriate pun, Banksy’s title claims both cliche and subculture. And self-referentially gestures towards Banky’s fondness for subjects that spew the unexpected.

Like so many New Yorkers now chasing after Banksy, I’m a fan. As a San Diegan, I’d long smiled at Shepard Fairey’s Andre the Giant “Obey” stickers. But street art caught more than my eye when I saw it played out in a theatre: I fell for graffiti via playwright Oliver Mayer’s “The Road To L.A.,” which stages a contemporary tagger’s interactions with the Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueros, who appears in the play as a contemporary – and still relevant – artist. After the play, I paid more attention to San Diego’s street art. I pilgrimaged to Mexico City to see Siqueiros’s work. I get what Mayer means about public art being at once a youthful immediacy and a legacy.

I appreciate graffiti as cultural expression and political force. And I like graffiti for graffiti’s sake. But graffiti’s ideas speak to blogging, too. Not unlike street artists who insist on hanging art outside the museum, bloggers exist independent of the (print) publishing industry. Like a building’s exterior wall, blogs promise an in to writing that doesn’t require the writer getting in.

Graffiti lends itself to motherhood, too. Like the characters in Mayer’s play, Banksy reminds us that public space belongs to us – the public. Isn’t this what we promise our children? The world is yours. Maybe a young Banksy listened to his mum, so he takes an occasional wall for his canvas. And the public street becomes his own.

I hope my daughters, too, find a way to make the world their own. Like Banksy, let them (re)draw walls. Let them prove that the world is more than boundaries, delineations, and limitations.

Right now, my influence on my young daughters is powerful. I’m who they look to when they wake, when they smile, when they cry. I’m their first, and they fell almost as hard for me as I did for them. But soon enough, the newness of it all will fade and I’ll just be mom. I’ll hover outside of my daughters’ youthful immediacy. Friends and lovers and songs and celebrities and cities will wash over my influence. And by the time my girls come of age, chances are I’ll look the part. I’ll wear gray hair like whitewash. But like whitewashed graffiti I’ll still be there, reminding, encouraging, and challenging. I hope I offer something good. Like this:Banksy graffiti art


6 thoughts on “Tag. You’re Banksy. Or, Graffiti Parenting.

  1. Pingback: The Secret to Turning Failure into Victory | ijoey.org

  2. I am also a huge fan, completely intrigued by how Banksy can remain anonymous around the world – let alone the streets of New York – while communicating such strong messages to the streets.

    What an interesting way to come across street art! I love how genres of art are constantly evolving and can throw you in a new direction. My infatuation started six plus years ago now and I still can’t shake the love of this art form.

    I quite liked how you made a connection between graffiti and other parts of your life, especially the strong comparison between street artists and bloggers – both have the opportunity to express their personal cultural, political or otherwise thoughts and beliefs through non-generic means. Although I am fairly new to blogging, the more I think about this, the more I can see the comparison. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

    I am also a mother of a beautiful, intelligent, extraverted seven year old girl. For me, I want to show my girl as many art opportunities as possible. I hope this influence will open her eyes to different ways of thinking. By the sounds of it, through your whitewash years, you will be still a powerful influence and support to your children. I hope I will be the same.

  3. Just read this, very very nice stuff. It would be fun to do that play one more time somewhere…. Sending you best, Oliver

  4. Pingback: Dear Banksy, I’ve Got Your Shadow | love and biscuits

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