New York Street Art


I've fallen head over heels for Brooklyn for a variety of reasons– its street art definitely playing a large role.  The stenciled quotes, miniature Charlie Chaplins, tags of EVOO, and pasted posters all over the borough appeal to my inner art nerd/hipster.  So when my family visited, I naturally had to take them down to Williamsburg to see the pieces of new york that had stolen my heart.

I remember very clearly trying to correct my grandma to tell her to refer to the spray painted and pasted masterpieces as street art rather than graffiti.  Because in Williamsburg that is exactly what it is.  It's artwork that enhances the neighborhood, turning a walk down the block into an unintentional stroll through an eclectic museum.  Graffiti is a crime, not something that adds to charm to a place.

Street art finds its way into official museums as well.  During a spur-of-the-moment foray into the Museum of the City of New York, I discovered an amazing exhibit on a New York graffiti artist (whose name has unfortunately slipped my mind, not that I paid incredibly close attention).  This featured art was not the paintings and "found art" of Brooklyn, but was comprised of the old school spray painted tags of 80's and 90's New York– AKA  pre-gentrification.

But here's the point when my conscience turns sour.  While riding the train to Citifield through Queens, my grandma noted all of the graffiti along the way.  But she called it street art, even though it looked to me like the art from the museum, but in real life as opposed to a time capsule from a much more dangerous New York.  Her terminology took me aback.  Instinctively, I don't see that sort of spray painting as art, but as graffiti.  The difference lies only in the semantics.  I tried explaining the difference between graffiti and street art, but found the difference essentially boiled down to: who did the painting and what was their purpose?

But isn't that the question with all art?  Modern art tries to blur the line, putting a urinal on display and calling it art, because in that setting it has lost its functionality.

Oh and it was just another reminder that I need to check my privilege.


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Meet The Author

I'm Madysen, born and raised in Nebraska but now living out my dreams in New York City. I moved here to go to Columbia, but living in New York has become so much more to me. This blog is a space where I can share my experiences of reconciling my midwestern upbringing with the life I live in the city. But even bigger than that, this blog serves as a space where I can try to understand where I fit into the larger social world, where I want to go in life, and how I want to go about pursuing all of these endeavors.

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