In the summer of 2015, I debuted "The Democratic Art Form," my own graffiti project in New York City. I drafted two designs that were significant to my experience in the city and stenciled them in various locations in Manhattan. I submitted my designs and an accompanying written analysis as my final project for Duke in New York, a summer program that immerses students in the cultural, artistic, professional, and personal dimensions of New York City. My project aimed to show how transformative Manhattan was for me and how I personally could transform the city as well. The title of the project, "The Democratic Art Form," refers to street art itself, which I believe merits such a description because of its accessibility to virtually anybody regardless of race, class, and gender. In fact, the only concrete barrier that is imposed upon street art derives from our judicial system. So, was my project legal? Not exactly...but my professors didn't seem to mind (they actually got quite a kick out of it). Check out the following images as well as my thought processes behind the designs.
HEART OF THE CITY
I found inspiration for this design from my daily commute on the New York subway system. During my four weeks here in the city, the subway was an essential lifeline, and the subway map my trusty guide. More often than not, I had to scrutinize the map and its web of colorful lines. I was, of course, not the only one in the city who considered the subway system indispensable. On a macro level, the metro is in some way, the heart of the city, connecting the different corners of Manhattan and providing inhabitants a relatively reliable method of travel that is generally accessible to anyone regardless of race, gender, and class (not so sure about disabilities). The subway is not perfect, but one cannot deny that it is an integral part of the city. I wanted to create a piece of artwork as a tribute to the metro, so I placed the subway map over a medically accurate outline of a human heart. With that, “Heart of the City” was born.
IN THE PUBLIC EYE
My second design drew inspiration from the Jane Jacob’s book, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.” The book’s second chapter, “The Uses of Sidewalks: Safety,” addressed the significance of sidewalks in contributing to the overall safety of a neighborhood. As Jacobs states, a successful city neighborhood must have “eyes upon the street, eyes belonging to those we might call the natural proprietors of the street”. That existence of public caretakers who watch over the passersby on the street is one that is often taken for granted. I found myself frequently forgetting that people were watching me as much as I was watching them when I meandered through the city. Perhaps this unawareness was a result of the intense city aura, one that seemed to encourage its participants to get lost in his/her own thoughts. I created “In the Public Eye” as a reminder for myself that, more likely than not, I did not walk throughout the city unnoticed.