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Artists paint new picture of graffiti

 by Allison Denny
 published on Wednesday, February 13, 2008

<b>TAG, YOU’RE IT:</b> Justin Smith works on his grafitti art piece in front of the Memorial Union Tuesday morning./issues/news/703619
John Battaglia / THE STATE PRESS
TAG, YOU’RE IT: Justin Smith works on his grafitti art piece in front of the Memorial Union Tuesday morning.
 
<b>LEAVE YOUR MARK:</b> Interdisciplinary studies senior Matt Underwood tags a public art project put on by Intergroup Relations in front of the Memorial Union on Monday afternoon.  /issues/news/703619
Kaitlin Ochenrider / THE STATE PRESS
LEAVE YOUR MARK: Interdisciplinary studies senior Matt Underwood tags a public art project put on by Intergroup Relations in front of the Memorial Union on Monday afternoon.
 

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Plywood boards transformed into works of art outside the Memorial Union Tuesday, as four graffiti artists, armed with cans of spray paint, gave a fresh perspective on what many see as vandalism.

The event is part of the Intergroup Relation Center's two-week hip-hop education campaign.

Elma Dzanic, one of the event's coordinators, said the purpose behind the graffiti presentation was to get people thinking about the positive elements of the art form.

"One of the original elements of hip-hop is graffiti, and it's one of the elements that has been seen as negative," Dzanic said.

Discussion of graffiti typically centers only on the negative elements, she added.

"There's a lot of talk that it's wrong, destroying public property," she said. "No one has really taken it into consideration as art."

The goal, Dzanic said, is to show people that "maybe graffiti isn't so bad."

"We wanted to give students and local artists a chance to show off their art in a legal, creative way," she added. "It should be viewed as an art form in celebration of hip-hop."

Graphic design freshman Justin Smith said he has been doing graffiti for three or four years and drawing since he was young.

Smith, 19, started doing graffiti illegally with his older brother in California when he was 15 or 16, he said. Smith said he has since stopped painting on public property.

He said painting his graffiti nickname was a form of getting respect from other graffiti artists.

"I fell in love with it — the aspect of getting my name known," he said.

The negative connotations surrounding graffiti come from a misunderstanding of what it really is, Smith added.

"There's truly a difference between tagging and graffiti," he added, explaining that tagging is sneaking out at night to commit a crime, whereas graffiti is an artistic mode of self-expression.

True, graffiti takes skill, he added, whether that's painting on a spot 30 feet up or on a canvas or board.

Though Smith's love of graffiti started with tagging his name, he said now it's about promoting the art form.

"I'm all about the movement of what graffiti is in a positive way," he said. "I'd rather people understand that any day than know my name."

Industrial engineering sophomore Kevin Bicho was one of many students who stopped to watch Smith and other artists work on their pieces.

Despite the public's negative view on graffiti, Bicho said he sees nothing wrong with it.

He said he and his roommates graffittied their garage. Whenever someone stops by, they add to the graffiti, he said.

"I love it," he said. "I really don't think there's anything wrong with [graffiti] if it's done on your own property with your own materials."

Reach the reporter at: allison.denny@asu.edu.



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