Friday, April 17, 2009

A Photo Commentary

I came across this as I took my first bike ride of the year along the Greenway path in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As an avid bicyclist, it is such a joy to have a route like the Greenway that runs right through the heart of the city, which serves not only as recreation, but also as a functional means of getting somewhere specific. In the future, it would be most intelligent if cities had entire linked networks of these kinds of paths, so that bicyclists could actually move through the city, instead of fight their way through cars and trucks and buses on streets designed for those vehicles alone.

But this post isn't really about advocating for bicycles; maybe another time. I want to speak about art and dharma, and how the two often merge.

As you may have noticed by the photographs I have posted, I have become very interested in the grittiness of the city. Specifically, I'm into the margins, the forgotten and ignored of the city. I want to work on the pivot between junk and beauty recognizing that it reflects our life in so many ways. These photographs are an attempt to express the juncture of the sacred and mundane.

There is no way to know when something, or someone, will appear in your life that is a great teacher. It's happening all the time, but sometimes, there is a sharp jolt that comes with an appearance, and it's difficult to ignore or forget it. Seeing this graffiti along the Greenway was just such an experience.

Many dismiss graffiti, and graffiti artists, as simply vandals and underground thugs. Yet, what really is at play with graffiti is a violation of our notions of private property, of ownership, and in the end, of our views that we are separate from each other. With every tag, there is a making public that happens. And even if the laws of the land are broken, and damage is done that shouldn't be, we are forced to pay attention to something that we most likely ignored before, even if only for a split second.

It's so easy to confine things. To say art is that which is in museums, publicly sanctioned, and considered by critics in magazines and newspapers. To say that what teaches us can only be found in books, or during meditation, or from the lips of another human.

It's ok - we all do it. Forgive yourself, as the tagger has reminded us. Even the choice of words, the message here, defies the stereotype of the graffiti artist.

It's as if the whole thing is telling us to just stay open, and let go of the need to place everything into neat categories and story lines.

Maybe this image will jolt you a little, like it did me, into waking up to the impermanence of our lives.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

A different way to look at graffiti. Some taggers are great artists. But I have such an aversion to it because I've been brought up to see it as vandalism. It's a hard mindset to change.