Tag Archives: street art

My Banksy tattoo

So, it’s been a while. I’m working on a film, which tends to keep me very busy. The holidays kinda swept me up as well (still haven’t taken down the decorations, let’s add that to the to-do list) and then there was my birthday.

As I’ve said before, I selfishly consider my birthday to be the true New Year’s day since it’s a week into each new year. For the past few years, I’ve been working on a project that I was both incredibly aware of and a bit unconscious to: birthday tattoos. I established rules for myself because I realized from the get-go that I would get addicted to body art.

Rule #1: Don’t get a tattoo you haven’t considered for at least a year. For me, this meant designing all of my tattoos with the artists who tattooed me. Nothing from the wall.

Rule #2: Only get tattoos on odd-numbered birthdays until your 30th, when all bets are off.

So, starting with my 25th birthday, I’ve gotten a tattoo every other year on my birthday. I broke both my rules only once by getting a tattoo of a fleur-dis-lis on my foot. It wasn’t my birthday, and I hadn’t really thought about the tattoo much before I got it.

The only other time the rules were broken was last year, on my 29th birthday when I got my Ganesh tattoo. After work, I rushed to Hell or High Water to get my tattoo and shortly after I arrived, the power went off because there was a devastating fire at a church nearby. I ended up getting it the next day, January 8th, right before the Saints lost their playoff game.

It’s ironic that there were so many obstacles to getting that tattoo of Ganesh last year: since he is known as the remover of obstacles. But he is also the Lord of Beginnings and a patron god of artists and writers and so he is very special to me.

As many of you may know from reading this blog, Banksy is also pretty special to me, including my favorite Banksy graffiti/art. While I like a lot of Banksy’s work and he intrigues me, there’s really only one image of his that I like enough to tattoo it – forever – on my body.

This image invokes hope and childhood, but also poignant nostalgia and unfulfilled desire. It is immediately evocative for most people who see it, yet it is a complete contradiction, both delicate and stark. Of course it would become part of my birthday tattoo project.

Hence, my Banksy tattoo:

I went to Hell or High Water again and while Tony was tattooing me, he surprised me completely by asking me why I’ve gotten all my tattoos. I don’t strike most people as the type, I know.  How did I become a girl who has five tattoos? And why? My brother is covered in tattoos and I don’t think anyone’s questioned why he’s gotten them. It just seems like a natural extension of his personality. Well, actually, I know our family has questioned WHY he’s gotten so many tattoos and while they disapprove, his tattoos probably do make more sense to them than mine make.

But that’s okay, because they make sense to me. My tattoos are each important reminders to me that I am always seeking balance in my life between extreme contradictions in the world and in myself. Which is why, except for my first, most of my tattoos are visible to me. When Tony and I were discussing the placement of my Banksy tattoo, I stressed how important it was that my tattoo be facing me, something I could look at whenever I wanted or see accidentally. He came up with a brilliant placement for it that accomodated the necessary size.

I told Tony this was my only tattoo that I hadn’t designed in some way, the closet to an “off the wall” tattoo, one that any number of other people are also carrying around on their bodies. He told me how much he enjoyed Exit Through the Gift Shop and  we started joking about how Banksy sort of stole the documentary that started out about him. Ultimately, we decided that Banksy should make another documentary, this one about the people who tattoo his work on their bodies. I would watch that documentary and it really seems like something he would do.

I’ll be your first subject, Banksy. ;”)

Shortly after getting my Banksy tattoo, I realized that it may very well be my last tattoo. It might not be. Who knows? But the birthday tattoo project is over. I got 5 tattoos between the ages of 25 and 30. They were done by 5 different tattoo artists at 4 shops on 3 of my important birthdays and in 2 different cities. All of these tattoos have a central theme of balance and they remind me daily of  things and people I love. They also remind me of who I have been and who I want to be. I’m happy with the results.

 

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New Orleans street art

For all of my posts about street art and all my photos of graffiti from around New Orleans, I’ve never actually dedicated a post just to New Orleans images. But I always take pictures, compulsively. Most people know by now that if you’re walking with me, I’m likely to stop and start taking pictures. Even Papa Bear knows that after a visit to Elizabeth’s (and the area near Dr. Bob’s) and a walk we took to Juan’s. He was very patient with me while I fell back and snapped pictures of all the amazing street art I saw.

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I loved reading about the Swoon exhibit through NOMA over at NOLAFemmes, which is going on through September. Good news for those of us who haven’t caught it yet.

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Vigilante Gift Shop – another Banksy/street art post

Last year, I wrote a giant post that mostly discussed street art in general and Banksy in specific. It bounced around a few topics that seemed related to me and was at least loosely connected – street art, Banksy, my volleyball teammates, my time in St. Petersburg, Russia with SLS. Before I wrote that post, I was lucky if I got 20-30 hits a day on this blog, but since then, I’ve seen a leap in traffic and searches like “banksy,” “banksy pictures,” and “robin banksy.” Most of the searches are pretty standard, though there was a few of “бАНКСЫ" searches and I did see an odd one recently – “gross vandalism art.”  Kinda intriguing.

Earlier this year, I revisited the idea of street art, particularly one of the images I’d included in that first post and the story of a friend of mine’s mural.

I’ve been meaning to write a true follow-up to the first street art post, because I stumbled on a lot of new information (and street art) since then. Where do I start?

Let’s start with New Orleans. In my first post, I linked to articles about Banksy’s visit to New Orleans and showed pictures of some of the work he did here. He mocked the “Gray Ghost,” who is a guy named Fred Radtke who paints over graffiti and street art. I’ve since found this piece that asks if there might be more than one “Gray Ghost,” if the Ghost has his own ghost. It raises the question of what distinguishes art from crime:

“Has its original intention been blotted out by Radtke’s approach, which some consider overzealous and unchecked that makes no distinctions between art and vandalism, or is he being unfairly criticized for what most would agree is a dirty job?”

Around the same time I first read this Gambit article, I found the website and trailer for Vigilante Vigilante, a film that looks at three men, including the Gray Ghost of New Orleans, who have made it their mission to “buff out” street art. Watch the trailer, it looks pretty amazing:

And of course, I found out about the documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, about Banksy taking over the documentary a guy was trying to make about him. I’ve been waiting eagerly to see it. When our most arty theater, Canal Theaters, was under construction, I thought there was no way I’d get to see it on the big screen. Then, oddly enough, a friend discovered it was playing at the recently renovated and re-opened Chalmette Theaters. This theater, like most everything else in Chalmette, was destroyed during Katrina. And it wasn’t easy to figure out where this theater is or what the showtimes were, let me tell you. My friend and I and a co-worker all had to investigate and then, of course, I had to drive out in a rainstorm to Chalmette, not really knowing my way. Anyway, I’d do it all again because it was an awesome experience. It should be said that the Chalmette Theaters is open, but only just. When I first walked in, I obviously walked in the side that’s not yet renovated and open for business. It was a big empty shell. When I found my way out and inside the open side of the theater, everything was glitzy and great, still smelling of fresh paint. It was, for that surreal reason alone, probably the best possible place I could’ve seen Exit Through the Gift Shop.

I shared the theater with one other patron, a completely unexpected middle-aged white guy, which just goes to show my own expectations and prejudices. We said hi as took my seat a few minutes before showtime, but didn’t speak again through the movie. I loved that the opening included a shot of the giant “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL” on the back of an abandoned building near NOCCA, on the river. Check out one of my pictures, below:

Abandoned building on the river, near NOCCA

The movie was absorbing and really smart. I only wished it had something about Banky’s visit to New Orleans. Anyway, I don’t want to give too much away by detailing everything that happens, but if you’re a geek for street art like me, it’ll be your thing. When it was over, my mind was reeling. Me and the unexpected middle-aged white guy walked out together and had a tiny conversation about what we thought of the film and I left feeling freaked out, amused and very excited about street art, about New Orleans (and Chalmette) and re-inspired by Banksy all over again.

You know, some people grumble that he’s sold out, is selling out, or has always been a sellout since it’s likely he’s an upper middle class British guy. And I wonder, sometimes. Especially when I read something like this short Artnet piece:

BANKSY DOES $200K BAND BACKDROP
Everyone’s talking about the Banksy-directed film, Exit through the Gift Shop, which showed at the Sundance Film Festival and tracks the antics of street artist Mr. Brainwash. Also getting some press: the London band named Exit through the Gift Shop, which has understandably benefited from some free publicity. The similarity in names was apparently a coincidence, with the band having been founded a few years ago out of the “midlife crisis” of band member, 41-year-old web developer Simon Duncan.

Call it a happy coincidence though. According to the Guardian, Duncan’s band started receiving “hilarious emails from someone saying he was Banksy,” asking for them to change their name. Soon, in return for changing his band’s name to Brace Yourself, a white van delivered to Duncan a giant new Banksy painting — “the size of a double bed” — depicting a grim reaper driving a bumper car, with the words “Brace Yourself” written on the front.

A Sotheby’s appraiser estimated that the work is worth a cool $200,000, and has taken the original into storage. Brace Yourself plans to play in front of a full-sized replica of the Banksy at a gig this week.

That’s kinda a big corporation move, to demand that somebody change their name because it closely resembles that name of your project. Yet, I guess Banksy wasn’t exactly demanding, he was asking, as the piece says. And, not only did he gift them with a $200,000 piece of art, he linked his name to their band and provided media exposure. I, for one, wouldn’t know anything about this band if not for a having read this write-up.

So, knowing I was going to do a follow-up, I did a couple of searches to see what’s going on currently. As always, I found some really cool stuff to read and look at. Like the Tumblr page that’s constantly being updated with pictures people have tagged. And the photos from Banksy’s tour of New York. And this piece about a “graffiti war” between Banksy and Team Robbo, who are going behind Banksy and altering his pieces. Kinda like Jenn’s mural being tagged by someone else, like I mentioned in my “Reconsidered” post. And this YouTube video, which is interesting in and of itself, because it might as well be a guided tour of a museum, except the curator is a kid explaining a “graff war”:

Which kinda brings me back full circle again. In my first post, I tried to find something to indicate whether or not Banksy had been to Russia, especially St. Petersburg, where I found a lot of amazing street art. Well, I found this great image from Russia, probably St. Petersburg, actually.

And then this great article on the English Russia site about the “Ukranian Banksy.” Some really great stuff, here. My favorite may be this one:

The "Ukranian Banksy"

And I think this is the best bit. It’d old news, but I hadn’t heard of it. The Cans Festival of public street art where spectators were encouraged to bring spray cans and wear clothes they didn’t mind getting dirty. I think every city should do this regularly. Would be really cool. Here’s my favorite of the pieces featured in the article:

Anyway, so that’s a lot of photographs and videos, just like the first post. I kinda get lost down the rabbit hole once I start talking about this stuff. I’ll leave you with my new favorite Banksy:

my new favorite Banksy

And some street art/graffiti images I’ve seen around New Orleans lately.

On the same building as "YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL"

Exemplifies our attitude in New Orleans, I think.

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Street art reconsidered

I wrote a post last year about street art. Well, the post was kind of a goulash of images and ideas I was thinking about. I’d been having conversations about street art, which I’ve compulsively taken pictures of for years, which made me think about Banksy coming to New Orleans. And all the street art I’d taken pictures of in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Included in that post (and the galleries of street art images), is one particular image that I kept thinking about.

Just a portion of the work.

Is this street art? Art, yes, available as you walk down the street, yes. But graffiti? It takes up the entire side of a building near my house. Because of the size and the color, I wondered if it might be a mural, perhaps even commissioned by the store housed in the building. This isn’t quite the same thing as street art — which is often spray-painted and involves stencils, for the speed of execution — even if it is beautiful.

So, I decided to ask.

Today, I went into the store Neophobia (which I’ve loved for years) and asked one of the co-owners, Amanda. She said that the artist hadn’t been commissioned by them, but they loved it when they saw it, so they invited the artist back to finish the work. She took my name and number to pass on to the artist, so if I hear from him, I’ll post again.

Meanwhile, this brings to mind another debate. Street art can legally be considered vandalism, though people like me consider it art and photograph it. People like New Orleans’s Gray Ghost take it upon themselves to censor it. Where’s the line? What distinguishes vandalism from art?

And I’ll give you a perfect example.

A friend of mine was commissioned to paint a mural on the backside of a local bar. She spent weeks on it, adding incredible touches to make it look like a fine New Orleans double. And it is a nice thing to see while walking in the neighborhood, rather than an ugly white wall.

Only. Someone tagged it. I couldn’t help but feel upset. Here I am, a proponent of street art, and I’m upset by some tagging? Well…maybe it’s because I think it’s rude to tag someone *else’s* work. It’s like going up to a painting on a museum wall and signing it. Right?

Judge for yourself. Here’s the mural (with the tag) and a close up of the tag. Lemme know what your thoughts are.

5.22 Update: So, on a recent walk in the neighborhood, I noticed that the tag had been painted over. Was this Jenn, the artist, while she was back in town visiting? Was it the property owner, who’d paid for the gorgeous mural? Was it a kindly citizen? Here is a snap of the “fixed” mural:

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Street Art, Banksy and SLS St. Petersburg

Last night, one of my volleyball teammates, K., and I were discussing street artist Banksy‘s visit to New Orleans, where he painted/stenciled art all over the city. If you click on the link above, the one with the “Gray Ghost” painting over the sunflower is kinda near my house, on Clio across the street from The Big Top.  I took a picture of M. (who was the first person to tell me about Banksy) in front of it. If I can get the image off my phone (and M. gives permission), I’ll post it here, alongside the regular image below. If it’s the same image (and I think it is, from the details at the bottom), then the sunflower’s been painted over since then and the image has been covered in plexiglass to protect it.

At least one business owner didn’t know what they had on their building and painted over their Banksy (apparently, in some places, a Banksy can improve your property value, which I dig). But like most street art, there is that element of the ephemeral, of catching it. And some places and people do what they can to embrace and protect street art, so that’s pretty amazing.

K. and I moved on from Banksy to discuss the street art I found while I was in St. Petersburg, Russia two years ago and later, images I found in New Orleans. It’s something of a hobby of mine to photograph whatever I see. Below, some Banksy images, street art from St. Petersburg, Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

Talking about St. Petersburg made me miss it pretty violently. I have moments of that, where I’ll remember smells and tastes and sights from St. Petersburg in this visceral, compelling rush and for a moment, I can’t breathe for wanting to go back. I went as part of the Summer Literary Seminars in 2007, during the end of White Nights where there’s almost 24 hours of daylight. So I got hundreds of photographs and rarely had to worry about lighting – though consequently, any photo that required a flash came out strange or crappy. I saw so many parallels between St. Petersburg and New Orleans while I was there and so it’s strange to miss one city while I’m in the other. But of course, they are very different too. Though, my “local” grocery in St. Petersburg was called Dixie. 🙂

Then, less than 24 hours after talking to K. about Banksy, street art and St. Petersburg, I opened up an SLS email about the new literary contest. Something was missing. Russia wasn’t offered as one of the programs. So, I followed the link to find out why. I know it’s a difficult city to organize something like the summer seminars in, even in the best of times. The program is now on hiatus till 2011, unfortunately. SLS still has programs in Kenya, Lithuania and Montreal. But, judging by my (oh too short) experiences in St. Petersburg, Russia’s the best. 🙂 Anyways, while on the Russia program page, I caught a link to 10-minute video about the 10 years of SLS in St. Pete. It’s a cool video and it gives you a pretty good idea of the experiences of the program. I saw some familiar faces and places and that made me…what? homesick? what’s the word for sick for a city that’s never been your home but completely transformed you? Just heartsick, I guess. I want to be in the position to go back to Russia in 2011, to spend more time and to see more, in addition to reacquanting myself with the old “neighborhood.”

I tried to tie it all together to see if there are any known Banksy pieces in Russia. Couldn’t find anything. But, I did find two Russian references to Banky’s Kissing Policeman. First, a photograph of two Russian Policemen kissing in a winter Siberian Forest. Second, what looks like a photograph of Russian officers (a male-female couple) kissing on a Russian sidewalk paired with Banky’s piece. May I be the first to suggest that Banksy take a visit to Russia? He can take the Trans-Siberian and really do it right.

Oh, here’s a video I just found of Banksy (?) in Palestine. Check it out. .

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[10.21.09: Here’s the picture of M. with the “Grey Ghost” Banksy I told y’all about. Enjoy.]

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