Jill McLennan September 2010
Graffiti Spots, An Intersection of underground culture and art.
As an inhabitant and observer of Oakland I am drawn to the colorful spots of graffiti on the trains and abandoned buildings throughout the city. As a traveler I notice graffiti and public art as signs of local culture where ever I go. Graffiti or Street Art is a way to claim something that has been forgotten, left behind by society. It is a language that is observed and experienced by everyone in the city in their own ways. As I look around my world these details stick out as clues to a larger message concerning our city and the structures that lie beneath the surface. Graffiti is traditionally a means of communication, a method of marking territory. I take this message out of the city and put it into a new context in the studio. I take snippets of multiple artists’ work, including the textures of the surface on which the work appears, as well as some clues to the surroundings of the site and present them formally as a new work of art. In this manner, I am creating an intersection of outside and inside, of street art and formal art, of urban culture and art world.
My process includes constant observation on foot, on my bike and in the car. Sightings are documented using visual memory, photography and sketches in my sketchbook. Locations are noted and returned to multiple times. In observing the artwork of street artists, I am looking for a particular detail that shows the hands of more then one artist merging on top of the textures of the urban detritus, bricks or train cars or fences or highway beams. These notes of the city are taken back into my studio and used to inspire art works on small wood panels. I use the photographs, I draw from observation and create my own perspective and message to design the composition. I add color using oil paint and colored wax encaustic. I cover the entire image with clear wax and etch lines into the wax to emphasize detail and texture. The piece is complete when I feel that I have given the artwork its own presence taken out of context yet reflecting the environment it came from.