One day when I was 16 or 17, I came home from a bad day at school. I don’t remember if I had a fight with one of my friends or my boyfriend, a bad practice, or was just frustrated in general, but after I parked my car in the garage I grabbed a can of spray paint from my dad’s workbench. As I stood there, I grabbed 2 more cans and a gallon of navy blue paint, and walked into my room and shut the door. My room was pretty; it was light blue and I had a dark walnut, four-poster bed with a white lace canopy. I moved all the furniture I could out of the way and started spraying my walls. I didn’t ask permission, I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing, I just did it. When my dad came home from work an hour or so later I listened to my parents’ conversation through the door – should they stop me? What was wrong? Was I “destroying” my “pretty” room? And then I heard my dad tell my mom “Think of all the things she could be doing right now. It’s only paint.” A few minutes later, he knocked on my door, stuck his head in and said “just open a window ok?” and closed the door behind him.
I painted for hours – I slowly outlined the corners and ceiling in white and gold, I thought about where to put each red accent spray, what I wanted all of this to represent, and then I put a huge navy blue peace sign above my grandmother’s antique piano. Over the next 2 years, I would add other colors and designs around the room, I wrote quotes with a black Sharpie in visible and non-visible places, I hung up bags and posters and things that represented me and truth be told, I came very close to “destroying” my room.
Recently I was watched “The Monuments Men” where a group of art experts, architects, and soldiers go over to Europe at the end of World War II to try and recover the art that Hitler and Nazi Germany had stolen from various private collections and museums and had hidden away. One of the main characters, Frank Stokes, had a dialog that really struck me: “You can wipe out an entire generation, you can burn their homes to the ground and somehow they’ll still find their way back. But if you destroy their history, you destroy their achievements and it’s as if they never existed. That’s what Hitler wants and that’s exactly what we are fighting for.” When I moved out, my mom said it took her 3 layers of spackle and 2 coats of primer just to make the room paintable. But after several coats of paint, she was able to cover up all my work and make it into another, different “pretty” room, and after just a few weeks all my years of hard work and expression was covered up and gone.
Having grown up on the river, one of my favorite places to go when I need to think is the riverfront. In St Louis, the riverfront includes a casino, the Landing, and of course the Arch. But a block or so away, next to the grain and cement plants, train tracks, and the homeless men sleeping under bridges is a place not a lot of people explore – Graffiti Wall. I have been going down there since I moved to St Louis and I’m always amazed at the beautiful work people are able to create with cans of spray paint. There are organized events like Paint Louis, and then there are the artists who come and do their own work. I was told after one of my early trips down there that every time you go it’s a different experience, and that is very true. So I started taking pictures of my favorite sections of the Wall. I didn’t paint any of this, this isn’t my original art; it is simply my attempt to photograph the beauty someone had the courage to create as it existed before it was altered.
Spray painting is still one of my favorite things to do, especially when I’m upset. I’ve built up a vast supply of colors, and while I don’t spray paint my room anymore, I do try to find some artistic outlet with it. I’ve spray painted clothes for my children’s various costumes, pieces of furniture, birthday party favors, but mostly I am encouraged not to destroy my husband’s grass. I laugh at him and paint anyway; grass grows back, right?
If you live in St Louis and want to see some amazing urban art, I encourage you to check out Graffiti Wall. It’s someone’s chance and risk, their idea of “pretty” and I find it inspiring to see people’s art and vision. Nothing was wrong with me the first time I spray painted my room, or any time after. It was my artful expression; I enjoyed doing it and I didn’t care if anyone else liked it. Artists need to take chances and risks, and I hope you enjoy my favorite spots and interpretation from Graffiti Wall.
“Eyes over the Wasteland” – This reminds me of The Great Gatsby for so many reasons. It’s hauntingly beautiful and overlooks the rest of the Wall and the riverfront.
“Fields of Daisies” – This art is older, probably from 2012, but I love flowers and this was the perfect combination of flowers and spray paint.
“My World’s on Fire. How about Yours?” – this image may have been what originally sparked The Lyric Project. It’s an older image as well, probably 2011, and when I saw it, the (for me, very personal) Smashmouth song “All Star” immediately came to mind. “So much to do, so much to see, so what’s wrong with taking the back streets…”
“Red Dawn” – this has nothing to do with the movie and it’s a small capture of a larger section of the Wall that is just very enchanting and makes me think of a horizon of graffiti that could be equivalent to a sunrise or sunset.
“Paint Louis” – This gem is from Paint Louis and I love everything about her. I probably stood and stared at this for a good half an hour.
“Thanx Roger” – I think what captivated me most about this image was the extra tag of “Thanx Roger” and it makes me wonder the how and why it was added because, at least according to Flogging Molly: “…your world won’t change while you sleep…”
“The Grim Reaper” – I’m positive some people will find this dark and depressing, but the colors and precision in this piece alone make it captivating.
“Woman on the Wall” – this lovely lady caught my attention in 2012 and was part of my RAW showcase in February of this year. I’m not sure if it’s the total blackness of her eyes or lips that draws me in, but I love her.
I found this “Guy” on my first visit to the Wall and had to photograph him. I have sent a copy of him to a very select group of “guys” who would appreciate him. He was also part of my RAW showcase earlier this year.
“Life. Is Beautiful.” – I love irony, and the play within this image just grabbed me. You have the dilapidated nature of this part of the riverfront, the graffiti itself (complete with an anarchy symbol), the barbwire fence and patchy grass, but yet, in everything you can find beauty.
I’d love to properly credit the work of these artists because over the years, these have been my favorite parts of the Wall. If you are the artist or know who it is, please email me so I can add their name to this list.