air bellows art museum #1
air bellows art museum #2
At Air Bellows we have a small outdoor museum of spontaneous art created by mostly the county's teenagers. Layer upon layer, adding new colors, new words, new names, new squiggles, new touches of every kind that can be made with a spray can. It grows over time and changes over time like a living thing. I always drive slowly through there seeing all I can of this spontaneous work of art created in momentary bits of juvenile delinquency.
Never had a spray can touched the Parkway tunnel at Air Bellows until about 20 years ago somebody committed spray can grafitti on the tunnel wall. Then another and another until the whole three sides were covered in colors, names, spontaneous squiggles within a year. I came to see it as a canvas for anyone to add something to, anything, and watched it grow of its own. There was no artist mind creating it. No mind was involved in the creation of the whole.
The most mind that went into any of it was, 'I don't know what to say.' So a name goes up in orange. A graduation date in hot pink outlined in black. Lots of I-loves over the years. It strikes me interesting that someone approaches the wall with a can and doesn't know what to say, but wants to say something, writes the word love. Others drop the F-bomb, first thing that comes to mind. You can just about tell, one is a boy and one is a girl. You know as well as I do which is which.
When mind does enter the equation it's often somebody with volcanic rage inside, a pressure cooker hissing all the time. I've seen some serious letting go of steam on those walls. Seemed to me like a good thing to have out in public for frustrated teenagers needing to vent in great big letters for the whole world. Anguish over breaking up has been all over the walls too. Names of heartthrobs galore.
Names of rock bands are a favorite. Always metal and punk bands. The colors grow on top of each other and after the first year, the whole interior of the tunnel was covered with several layers of colors randomly chosen, randomly placed, no aesthetic guide but the compulsion to add something to it. It's as close to art made of perfect chance as it gets. Just pick a place and start spraying anything you want. Absolute freedom for people who need that feeling from time to time, to keep their batteries charged, to go on feeling alive in a world that suppresses all the energy that's going off inside like never-ending strings of Chinese firecrackers.
It's an act of juvenile delinquency, albeit as small as it gets, self-assertion on property held sacred by adults. And everybody has to complain about the kids and grafitti and against the law and it oughta this and it oughta that. And it so predictably cracks the kids up in advance. It's why they laugh and have a good time doing it. They know the adults will hate it, and they know it's harmless. They're not hurting anything, just elbowing parents in the ribs and saying, 'Get over it. Stop being so serious.' It's a place for people newly discovering themselves, who they are, to stand up and say, I Am.
I remember a time some years ago being told about somebody I knew catching a kid standing in the back of a pickup spraying the upper part. He knew the boy's mother. Called her and told on the kid. I was told this like proud of it, and inside I'm thinking: you did what? So the kid is sentenced to take house paint and paint over the whole thing and make it clean and pretty. Not. It just started another canvas. Periodically the Park Service paints over it and it keeps on going.
I've loved it all the way along. It's one of those gestures by kids to push adult buttons to make them say something smug and self-righteous. It makes the kids laugh just thinking about it, because they know it's going to happen every time an adult passes through the tunnel. I'm glad the place for that kind of spontaneous expression is close to home. I don't have to go far to see it. Just one mile from the house. I'd far rather see those colorful expressions on one great canvas than on rock walls by the courthouse, or the sides of buildings in town.