You'll know from following our social media postings over the last four or five years, we post pictures of street or public art from all over the world. You’ll see our photos from Argentina, Belgium, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Holland, Iceland, Italy, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway, Peru, Shetland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, Uruguay, the United States — and more — everywhere we find it.
You may be wondering why do we do it?
We began our collection, in part, because we saw these works everywhere we went and felt the artists were trying to tell a nontraditional story. But even more so than with studio artists, we’re left to wonder what that story is in the mind of the artist.
We’re all about spotting stories everywhere we go, snapping photos and videos as evidence and presenting a different, current or unique angle for our readers. After all, with respect to travel, destinations in and of themselves are not stories. But, for example, when we discover public art suggesting the history of a place or the struggles of people, coupled with firsthand testimony the artist or locals, we’re hooked on following the story.
In a sense, street artworks are a present-day form of modern hieroglyphics with an emphasis on the artistic representation. Imagine what archaeologists or historians from another world might think about these works. In many places around our world, it is illegal to paint on public or private property seen by the public.
Do you ever wonder what they mean? We do. And the answers are as varied as the works. Some pieces suggest multiple storylines, not surprisingly, since they are works of art.
Some are political, full of anger and despair, easily tied to a time of strife in a country. Others are doodles by novices trying to develop the skills to express themselves, first, through thin line lettering, then by bubble letter Graffiti. As their skills mature, later works involve more complex drawings involving an array of materials and expansive thematic content.
Some works are painted by kids, gang members, or amateurs just starting out in their twenties and thirties, tagging objects with their one line signatures. These people are known as taggers and bombers (because they “bomb” public places with their illegal paintings). Some are meaningless, mindless visual ramblings, also the works of a tagger or bomber.
Ironically, this worldwide phenomenon began in Brooklyn, New York in the 1970’s where Tom lived at the time. This was an era, like now, of great civil unrest in the United States. Images of Graffiti laden subway cars are still emblazoned in his memories.
Why do Graffiti artists bomb subway cars? They want maximum exposure. Millions of people see these cars.
To the contrary, some local governments commission or invite artists to create public art murals. Vancouver, British Columbia and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, are two cities that do this.
Vancouver holds an art festival every year inviting renowned artists from around the world to paint their works on structures in various areas of the city. Many murals are in the Mount Pleasant area of Vancouver.
Many public murals are in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. They reflect the happy, financially stable residents found here, and their ardent interest in the history and culture of the community and the surrounding area.
Buenos Aires, Argentina has a vibrant public art presence. You’ll find murals, smaller paintings, and graffiti in all 48 barrios. The brutal military dictatorship that ran Argentina between 1976-1983 left the economy and country in disarray. Later reconstruction of the city left swaths of abandoned buildings crying for artistic attention. Each barrio has programs, some official, some not, to sponsor public murals on these buildings.
This work by Martin Ron tells an interesting story. We’ll talk about this piece and more in our series of stories about Street Art of the world on our blog and other publications.
Neighboring Uruguay, not surprisingly, also has a vibrant street art culture. It was our great fortune to meet Pedro and Jose painting this gorgeous wall mural of Einstein in downtown Montevideo in November 2017.
Stay with us as we publish our country by country series, Fascinating Street Art of the World. You’ll see in-depth interviews with artists, learn how they get their ideas, and how they decide to create their paintings.
It’s a fascinating journey for us to meet and learn from these artists. We hope you’ll enjoy your journey with us exploring these captivating people and their stories.