Graffiti

In 1979, in Baltimore, my friend Polio Vasslene & I started what later became known as the "Stencil Craze". We both created stencil icons that represented ourselves & sprayed them around Baltimore. The idea was that when either of us found each other's symbol we would place our stencil next to it to show that we'd been there.

The only stencil graffiti that I'd seen at this time was an ad for a painter named J. Stritt's exhibit of his (?) work. Graffiti at that time was not so common in the areas of Baltimore where I was - or, perhaps, I just hadn't paid much attention to it because I wasn't interested in just name-signing. My 1st graffiti was made as a research volunteer for a cholera study in early 1976 when I was 22 & I wrote "Solidarity" on the toilet stall wall where the unforunate volunteers who got cholera were experiencing dramatic diarrhea. I imagine that it's obvious that that graffiti was a double entendre.

Probably for safety's sake & to make it more fun, Polio was joined by Mannette Letter on her graffitiing excursions. It wasn't very long, probably late 1979 or early 1980, before there was a whole crew of stencil graffitiists. Given that graffitiing is illegal, we were all 'anonymous' - but the Artscape stencil graffiti show of 1996 led to most of us going public so I'll just call everyone by their public name except for the possible few that I'll make up initials for. I think it was Dave Bakker & Randy Hoffman who created a stencil to put in front of "Safe Houses", the residences of fellow stencil graffitiists, sometime between 1983 & 1985, that we could go to in case of trouble.

Of course, other stencil graffitiists came along during the next decade including Ruth Turner, Francine Nandrews, Ricky Kilreagan, & Peter Pan.

I didn't have a tag except for the above-mentioned non-word icon. I tried to vary my graffiti a substantial amount - spray-painting mysterious things, different things every time. Simultaneous with this stencil craze a friend of mine was tagging with the name "Revolt". He'd also tag next to the stencils. Richard Ellsberry didn't like that because he felt like Revolt was "signing" Richard's work. Personally, I think REVOLT! was doing what Polio & I started out doing: showing he'd been there.

Years later, maybe around 1984, when I saw a tag that said "SPAM" I'd spray "Wham Bam Thank You" next to it as a variant on the common 'saying' "Wham, Bam, Thank You Ma'am" which meant quickie sex or just referred to anything done quickly (or too quickly).

I was always interested in the street art that got outside the common approaches such as the famous "Toynbee Tiles" that I saw on the streets of BalTimOre, NYC, Boston, & Pittsburgh at least. I didn't try to document everything I saw, just the street art that interested me the most. The following collection reflects that.

In 1996, my friend & collaborator Peter Pan curated a stencil graffiti show as part of the annual arts festival in BalTimOre called "Artscape". I was asked to participate. The form that my participation took was a criticism of 'co-opting' graffiti - which I felt was best as an 'outlaw' activity.

- February & March, 2016 notes from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE

 

This is probably the oldest photograph I have of me making graffiti. It's a polaroid, probably taken by Polio Vasslene, definitely taken through a barred back window of our shared rented house at 203 W. Mt. Royal Ave. in Baltimore, probably in 1979. Never content with just doing-things-the-way-everybody-else-is-doing-them, I'm shown here sprinkling glitter onto my freshly stencilled "Frame of Reference shape".

Shown on the alley is the stencil, the open miniature violin case that was originally manufactured for some unknown presumably expensive liquor bottle, & the can of gold spray-paint with its cap off sitting on the street.

In this 2nd detail the very faint orange pony-tailed girl stencil that was Polio Vasslene's symbol is barely visible in the lower left. The black circle with the white halo was Mannette Letter's "Black Hole" thing. My sprinkling of glitter is slightly more visible.

This is a polaroid I probably took in late 1979 or early 1980 of the end of a bridge wall, possibly the Calvert Street bridge going over train tracks. Richard Ellsberry's NASA figures stencil coupled with the REVOLT! tag are shown together.

This is what the original NASA Pioneer Plaque looked like.

"The Pioneer plaques are a pair of gold-anodized aluminium plaques which were placed on board the 1972 Pioneer 10 and 1973 Pioneer 11 spacecraft, featuring a pictorial message, in case either Pioneer 10 or 11 is intercepted by extraterrestrial life. The plaques show the nude figures of a human male and female along with several symbols that are designed to provide information about the origin of the spacecraft.

"The Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft were the first human-built objects to achieve escape velocity from the Solar System. The plaques were attached to the spacecraft's antenna support struts in a position that would shield them from erosion by interstellar dust" - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pioneer_plaque

Richard Ellsberry made a stencil from the NASA representation of humans. The physical limitations of SF's stencil combined with probable over-spraying & the poor fidelity of the polaroid image make SF's version look more like some cheap Grade-Z Alien-Ghosts-from-Terror-Swamp type thing - wch wasn't what Richard was going for.

small environmental things

The Stencil Craze - Phase I

Neoist

The Stencil Craze - Phase II

The Stencil Craze - Phase III

Artscape '96

Industrial Arts Co-Op's Carrie Deer

 

 

 

 

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