Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Unique Energy of Urban Street Art

by Diane of Lady Dye Fiber Arts & Design

This photo was taken in Halifax, Nova Scotia on my knitting cruise I went to last year. I was surprised to see how much street art was in Canada.
Some of my followers on Twitter may not understand why I make frequent references to urban murals and other street art. What can that possibly have to do with knitting and crocheting? It’s always been hard to explain it in 140 character tweets, so I want to go into it a little deeper here. Let’s just say that if it had not been for the (sometimes genius-level) artwork I saw on walls here in Boston and elsewhere, I might not have ever started my yarn-dying business.

Street art is about colors - very, very vibrant, vivid, eye-popping colors. The artists themselves don’t mix their colors (as I do with my yarn dyes.) Spray-paint companies come up with electric colors, as that is what the market demands. Then the artists use these paints to create eruptions of color, often incredibly imaginative displays, in areas that had been dull, drab, and bleak, to say the least. As I said in a recent tweet, “Most art gets a place set aside in advance, in a museum or gallery. Only street art is imposed on a dreary place that needs it.” It is the imposition of dynamic artistic energy in a place that had been depressingly lifeless that first grabbed me, years ago. I became something of a student of street art.

It is controversial, of course. It’s illegal, in most places! Some people cannot conceive of any of it being anything better than vandalism. Though more and more we see big cities trying to come to terms with it by setting aside spaces for murals, having contests, etc. Street art is also ancient. Positively prehistoric, it dates back to before there were any streets at all. Never has it not been there, which is another reason I feel it should be brought out of the shadows. So much of it is never seen by many people, because it has to be painted in a hidden-away place in order for the artist to spend any time creating it. Ever walked to the back of some remote building somewhere and stumbled upon a painted image of fantastic detail and color? Yes, some of it is low quality, but that’s the same with any art, or anything else. At its best, street art can be a dazzling experience.  

Unlike what you might find in a proper museum, it is a cry of the soul. These artists, good or bad, have a few things in common. Most likely they come from a background of poverty, with none of the advantages a “legit” artist enjoys. They start out as outlaws. Their work will not be preserved, but more likely painted over or sand-blasted at the first opportunity. The very places they work are often dangerous places to be. For self-expression only (no money) they persevere, and often deliver wonderful works of art. I found their work inspiring, to say the least.

In my next blog post we’ll talk about knit graffiti and yarn-bombing.

Here are photos that I took recently:
I took this photo in Cambridge at Central Square:

Here is another photo fro Halifax. I really like how the murals are painted inside each window.

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