I Heart Street Art: Graffiti in High Places

Last week I got to talk to Maria Forde about her art. Maria makes zines and portraits of movie directors, and to my knowledge is not involved in graffiti. But we got to talking about how we like encountering art in unexpected places (like when I was at Lost Weekend Video and came across a Sam Peckinpah t-shirt she'd done for them), and the subject came up.

“Most graffiti kinda annoys me because it never looks very thoughtful,” Maria said, “But I like it when I see something up really high where it looks like the person almost died doing it. I think it's called 'heavens.'”

Right? Is there a greater kick in the world than seeing a work of art high above the city, its very placement relaying a tale of trespassing and paint fumes and epic danger? (Urban Dictionary confirms that “heavens” is the proper terminology.)

This all made me a recall a feature in Rolling Stone I read when I was 12 or 13. (I tried to find reference to it online, but had no luck, so please just accept that I'm not lying.) The reporter had somehow talked some crew of graffiti writers into letting him tail them on a number of missions over a somewhat long period of time. He marveled at their elaborate routines: lookouts, ropes and pulleys, speed, vaulting from rooftop to rooftop, hanging upside down for hours at a time.

It sounded cool, but also tragic, because they were always drug-addled and fume sick and I think one of them might have fallen to their death, or known someone who did. But it was a gripping article. Which is maybe why I took up writing instead of graffiti writing.

Anyway, I figured what better way to kick off I Heart Street Art than with one of my favorite pieces of street art ever, this Ribity perched majestically atop an abandoned theater marquee on Mission Street. It's been up there for well over a year now, and at this point is as much a neighborhood fixture as the Skechers store or Omer.

Granted, getting Ribity up there probably was not the absolute most death-defying effort in the history of street art. Anybody have any leads on anything more badass?

Photo by my new favorite Flickr photographer, Emamd.

See the rest of my talk with Maria Forde here. Her show Advice Portraits is up at Needles & Pens through April 26th.

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