Picturebook: Graffiti
    Photo by Emily Chow / North by Northwestern

    This — this art, that is at once a creation and destruction of the self, standing on the wall like a behemoth, which I made that one night that we passed by, thinking to ourselves, “Why not make art on top of the art already on this brick canvas,” as I thought to myself, “My art is better than your art” (a little admission I made silently, a gentle moment of self-aggrandizement that every painter, sculptor, poet needs every once in a while to justify the continuation-demonstration-revisitation of aesthetic creation), and outlined with my hand the outline of myself, and transformed myself into a creature formed of disciplined, concentric circles: an apt rendition of man itself, as we are all imperfect things grown from things that are perfect, seeing as imperfection is something we make of ourselves and for ourselves, for we are at once fighting perfection, drawing up for ourselves more rules to tie ourselves down to our flaws: outlaws, and outliers of the equilibrium nature provides for us through the constancy of daily routine (the sun sets, rises and moves to an invisible but calculated clock); and I have made myself into art so I will last as long as time will permit, while the red bricks lose their colors and the weeds grow tall around me, and the people who pass by change and grow old, and art itself changes form, so that again we are struggling against the perfect passage of time, in a silly attempt to reach once more the state of completion that we entered this world with, an attempt I’m reminded of each time I pass by the wall that I’ve marked with my own portrait, knowing all too well that graffiti is “illegal,” as the grown-ups say to one another only because they’ve lost the will or the skill to redefine for themselves what is legal, what is art; and I open my lips to speak, though my portrait is silent so you can hear your own thoughts in your head as you imagine them coming from me (we all scream in different colors), and I will stay in your thoughts like an ugly ghost who you cannot shake, all the while my words (which are actually your words and his words and her words) bubble between your ears, behind your eyes, pulling you back to the moment that I stood in the very same spot with my hand outstretched and the paint in my hands, screaming out to you, persuading, pleading, wishing for you to believe that this — is art.


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