A Brooklyn native writes about her feelings on street art and the hipsters’ phony attempts to appropriate art as their own. Below are her views on the problem:
I have always had an affinity for art in its various media. I remember when I was in 2nd grade we had this teacher who was very much 1980’s Greenwich Village when it came to her personal style. Gravesend didn’t see much in terms of abstract thinkers and she’ll always stand out in my mind. Around Thanksgiving she had us make turkeys using red-delicious apples, toothpicks and gumdrops. Each toothpick got 3 mixed color small gumdrops on it and then the picks were stuck into the apple to create feathers. For eyes, we used marshmallow and for the nose a small piece of black licorice. I thought she was God.
In around fourth grade we were assigned book reports and short story/creative writing homework. I received little awards and lots of shiny gold stars on my work.
In ninth grade, I raised my hand in freshman English and asked the teacher if we were going to read Shakespeare. Years later I bumped into him and he remarked on his having a fond memory of me for what he thinks will be forever. He said that it is few and far between that a student actually expresses an interest in studying the art form of literature.
Now, I realize that art in of itself is not something that can be easily defined. There have been artists who’ve used human feces over religious works and found their pieces prominently displayed in galleries while other folks out there have so much raw artistic talent running through their veins that it hurts and they can’t catch a break. Art is beauty and beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? Right! So let us talk about Graffiti –
Graffiti = Hiphop = NYC
I can remember when being a kid and riding the trains was like being on a moving museum. A mobile gallery of art, throw-ups, fill-ins and the likes. Sure, there was a lot of profanity and pictures of things that the public just doesn’t need to see without signing an “I am over 18” consent form but all in all the trains were the place to display your work as a graffiti-artist. And, in Brooklyn, graffiti artists were aplenty. Once I hit my teenage years I found myself immersed in the NYC rave scene and this is where I really became exposed to the graff scene.
I dated a dude for a while that was pretty heavily involved in all of the negative things that surrounded the rave scene in Brooklyn and NYC in the mid to late 90’s. I am confident in saying that he and his crew of misfits pretty much owned most of the prime real-estate with respect to graffiti spots in the Brooklyn area. They easily kinged the BQE, the B (Now D) elevated subway line, and they were well known amongst the other graffiti crews in the area. I remember late night bombing missions where we’d all dress up in our black hoodies, jeans, and tims and make our way down into the various ditches and tunnels of the NYC Subway system. The crew got the hot spots and the girls played chicky on the lookout tip. I miss the 90’s!
When I started dating Daniel, he and I made a point to go out to various artsy events that seemed interesting to us. We both like art on a grand scale (my taste is far superior to his.. just sayin!) so we thought it’d be nice to incorporate various gallery events as they came up. I remember one of the first events we attended was in a gallery down in Williamsburg (shocker). The evening was a mixed media of documentary and some hanging art. Amongst the bulk of the hanging art were photographs of graffiti. I noticed that these works were signed by the photographer and that the credit for said art was, in a way, being stolen by lens toting hipster assholes. It was super unnerving. All around me were these hipstery pretentious assholes who have absolutely no idea of what is entailed with getting the perfect “spot” to complete a piece that is worthy of being photographed. There are various elements involved when the real artist is canvasing a spot and preparing to throw their paint onto a wall. And then here comes Harry Hipster and his Canon Rebel, or whatever $1000.00 camera his parents bought him when he signed up for art school, and he just stands there, presses a button, and calls this his art.
Are you fucking kidding me or what, hipsters?
They say the best form of flattery is imitation but this isn’t even imitation! Grab a can of Krylon and put your artistic skills to the true test. Be original, have a concept of what an artist’s process is when they’re creating. Do something – but Jesus Christ, don’t just sit there, press a button, and then call it art. That is absolute bullshit and Daniel and I got into a pretty heated debate about this at the Gallery that night.
For some reason that is completely unknown to me, hipsters love to photograph graffiti. If you go to Flickr and look at any of the street-art pools, you will undoubtedly be met with hipster after hipster’s photo accounts. Along side their artistic interpretation of a say, WEED piece, you’ll find pics of their nights out spent drinking felonious amounts of PBR. You’ll also find many girls in headbands and leg-warmers, dudes in skinny jeans, and an air of disgust.
I like to think that the appeal of the street-art photography is a deep-bred need to be closer to things that are generally urban. They are in love with a culture of which they have absolutely no experience. Moving to Brooklyn and living in a neighborhood along side other flocking hipsters does not give you street-cred. You are not tough. You are not Brooklyn. You are not even New York – and anyone that is New York knows that each native NYer fits into a sub-category dictated by the borough in which they grew up. Brooklyn is a stand alone example of this model of thought. Nearly every trip I take outside of the city I am met with “you’re from Brooklyn, right?”. It’s not you’re from New York – or you’re from Manhattan; it’s you’re from Brooklyn, right? – And, that is because people who are truly Brooklynites have no choice but to exhibit it. We are bred with a strength and a character that is dominant. We can take classes to reduce the infliction with which our Brooklyn accents spit out words but the light inside of us that screams Brooklyn never dies out. We live it – and we live it because we are it. You, hipsters, are not it. You are Kansas, you are Missouri, you’re Texas and Nashville. You’re Florida, and you’re Chicago. You are not now, nor will you ever be, Brooklyn.
Brooklyn is earned.
Having a 11— zipcode does not make you gangsta, tough, or even remotely desirable. I have had a 11— zipcode for my entire life and as this blog dictates, I am dying to step outside of the confinement of the 11— stigma. You cannot, for a moment, begin to break down the complexities of growing up in a borough where poverty dominated. Instead, you come here with your trust funds and you move into buildings that are squat-houses because it is cool. Fuck you and your coolness.
Get a clue. Get a grip. Get a talent. Stop robbing real street-artists of their work.
The next gallery show I attend where a hipster is showing a photographed piece of street-art better have the original graffiti artist standing next to the framed print signing autographs or some shit. I’m dead serious – this really enrages me. I’m not sure if it’s simply the act of assigning your name to work that is not your own, or if it’s the sheer arrogance and stupidity with which a hipster will sink to seem like they’re what’s really hood. I have seen this time and time again and I just don’t get it. A bunch of people Daniel attended undergraduate school in Florida are hipsters living in Brooklyn and they’re prime examples of this behavior. They attempt to portray what they believe is a hustler’s life and through their dirty clothes and inexpensive fixies, they’re out working at jobs where their salary is teetering on 6 figures.
Assholes! You had the luxury of attending college – most likely on your daddy’s dime. You went to school, graduated, and have the tools required by the real world to secure a prestigious position. You have secured said position yet you still want to move throughout the world and act like you’re some sort of impoverished defunct. And here I am, at nearly 32 years old facing the fears of not being financially secure so that I can pursue an education. There are no trust-funds in my back pocket, no emergency phone-calls to Daddy when I can’t pay my rent. I live in the real-world . I am the real Brooklyn.
Go the fuck home.