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Graffiti as art

Dear Editors,

I respect and enjoy the variety that the Durango Telegraph brings to news racks. But today I’m disappointed that the Telegraph took a nice photo of D-town artwork and employed it as a vapid, visual accompaniment to the fearful “Gangs Prosper in Northern New Mexico” article. Even before we had the Morse code, art was painted onto, and etched into walls accessible to everyone, only recently it seems that we are willing to acquaint such artwork with drive-by shootings. Murals have been dubbed “the art of the working class,” because of their accessibility. I am not a painter, but I appreciate accomplished graffiti as an art true to the mural tradition. In my opinion, the best murals compliment architecture with regard to the walls they are painted on, and some of the works downtown are well on their way.

Though somewhat raw, it is clear that the cinder block and spray paint murals depicted (Telegraph, May 1) are the expressions of practiced artists. If a young woman or man is practicing hard at their art, and if they are encouraged to do so, how are they going to find time to gang-bang? Without regard to the people who paint in “The Foundation” of downtown Durango, the Telegraph chose to associate such works with the drug trade and violence occurring in the state of New Mexico. What’s more the Telegraph did so without the citation of external sources.

Though I do not know all of the details regarding the Foundation and its murals, I feel that it would be wise in the future to find some before publishing a photo of the place. Art in itself can be a positive alternative to gang-banging. I would guess that many graffiti artists, however talented, lack the privilege of tenderfoot studio artists. It seems highly unfair to use the power of an independent publication to demean an art form that is already marginalized by the status quo. Granted, graffiti as vandalism is a problem in the community, but tougher legislation is not the answer.

Laws against painting only turn graffiti into an art of sequestered passions. As a citizen it makes sense to help to find a legitimate outlet for talent. Chances are, some of the town’s best muralists are pigeonholed into the deplorable chasm of illegality. Our community could solicit contributions from such artists that would enhance the aesthetics of many a stoic structure. As underground artists are legitimized, simplistic eyesore tagging would likely be frowned upon in the graffiti world. If graffiti ethics can be established in a wise community paradigm, then painters with no skill would become less prevalent, and those with skill would be encouraged to flourish legitimately. If we do nothing to promote skilled murals, then alternatives might be illegal /gang-related, and paint will continue to show up where it is unwanted. It is unfair for a society to deny an artist’s ability to help themselves, yet that seem to be what we are doing when we don’t take time to think about what we see.

-Sincerely yours,
Ryan Osborne

Holding the line: Pins hang from a clothes line awaiting use outside a Durango home Monday afternoon./Photo by Todd Newcomer.





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