I see graffiti. I see it on the rail cars that pass my home. I see it under bridges and over walls. I see it in the forgotten places, silently shouting, “see me; know me; please, try to understand.”
In this chaos, this uncensored, jarring display, I’m transfixed.
Art speaks, and the voice of art was never meant to solely be locked up in tidy galleries.
Because art is not tidy.
It is the emotions and undercurrents that make philosophers, politicians and rhetoricians. It is the essence that drove Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel in an expanse, not a canvas. It is the yearning that spurned Picasso to abstract the shattered values he saw.
Graffiti, then, is the product of a grieving artist. It frustrates the viewer. It makes the elite cringe and the bruised rejoice.
Surely both the galleria and the graffiti are beautiful in differing ways. Whereas good art, R.C. Sproul would say, reflects the true, the good and the beautiful, there is truth and beauty in the groans of graffiti.
Graffiti is not created to be enjoyed. It is created to be heard. It shouts because it sees and knows the untold narratives. It advocates because at the core, the beauty it sees is torn, ravaged and in a perpetual state of shock and misunderstanding. If love is essential for survival, then graffiti is the plea of dying voices.
This year, I’ve seen more than ever, the pleas behind the graffiti. They rise above art and become the people themselves.
Graffiti is the cries of Kendrick and the votes of the electorate. Graffiti is the tears of the hurting and the cries of minorities. Graffiti is the names on the news and the rallies few stop to join.
A conglomeration of jarring, chaotic voices shout - you’re hurting me. They hurt. I hurt. Will we hurt with them? When will we grieve enough to act?
It is a heart-rupturing hurt that makes the brave weep.
I grieve because I see the beauty in the graffiti. Because the graffiti is not the product of spray paint. The graffiti is the people who have been dehumanized and shout, “we are alive, very much so!” They find themselves condemned by words, by stereotypes and by the refusal to acknowledge that oppression is a reality, even if it’s not overtly visible in the suburbs.
The graffiti is the people whose names are reduced to “them” and “other.”
“Them” and “other” are beautiful - souls with stories and experiences that manifest vibrant life- a beauty scorned, labeled and discarded.
No human, created in the Creator’s image can be refuse in the Father’s eyes. Where mankind scorns, the Creator uncovers a Sistine Chapel full of awe-inspiring beauty - creative people given a voice to worship a Creator.
We closed the chapel’s doors. We erased the ceiling and boarded up the doors. But we could never destroy the beauty inside. It still had a voice and that voice sings.
Those voices, the voices of the minorities, the voices of the hurting are voices speaking deep truth.
Can we stop to hear the Graffiti? Because it’s not graffiti, it’s Diamond and Ny-Asia and Jay-Jay and Eduardo and London.
“If I have denied justice to any of my servants,
whether male or female,
when they had a grievance against me,
what will I do when God confronts me?
What will I answer when called to account?
Did not he who made me in the womb make them?
Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?
Some may feel removed from the minority narrative. While it may seem foreign or unfamiliar, I strongly disagree. Our lives are all painted together in this earth and they never cease to overlap. If we truly value human dignity, then take the time to listen and grieve. One cannot promote actions without a knowledge of those whom actions affect - everyone.
Experiences might differ, they should. Let us never live in an institutionalized world. Let us know one another to grieve and love and lean into sources of beauty found only through listening to the untold stories.
*Source image retrieved from: Wikimedia Commons