A guerrilla artist has defaced the exterior walls of the Joseph A. Carroll Building and has gone to some lengths to make sure his/her work remains on display. The Record-Chronicle's Donna Fielder reported in Thursday's "Blotter" column that the perpetrator had created pictures, cut them out and then affixed them to the building with a roll-on adhesive. A clever copyeditor with a puckish sense of understatement wrote a headline that said, "Unusual vandal defacing property."
County officials are getting perturbed about recent attacks by graffiti artists. The Courthouse on the Square has been hit recently; the Carroll Building is the latest target.
The artist - they are called "taggers" by the aficionados of graffiti - had used the signature, "SUB." One work depicted a cartoon man in a ski mask holding a knife to the throat of a woman with the caption, "for every painting that gets ripped down I kill one hostage."
It wasn't exactly the crime of the century, but it was pretty crude and brutal humor for this dangerous day and time, and not that original, either; the National Lampoon magazine did it better and funnier many years ago.
We do not know "SUB," or at least we're pretty sure we don't, but we have a message for our mysterious tagger:
We cannot know why you feel it worth the risk of arrest and prosecution to plaster a public building with your work, but we can speculate.
Perhaps you are doing it for art's sake. If so, please be advised that there are ways to present your public art that don't involve breaking the law. Denton loves public art. It is all over the place - in front of businesses, on the walls of buildings (whose owners have given their permission), even on retaining walls and trestle abutments. We encourage you to explore avenues in which you might give your work permanent (and legal) exposure.
We also urge you to take a critical look at your own work and ask yourself if it rises to the level of art. We have not actually seen your work, and we have noted repeatedly in this space that not only do we not know much about art; we aren't even sure what we like. Our own long-ago efforts at graffiti tended more toward the "Here we sit all broken-hearted" variety, so we are no experts. We will leave it up to you.
If art is not your purpose, perhaps politics is. Perhaps you are trying to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. If that is your aim, we humbly suggest you may be doing the exact opposite. Let us cite an anecdote that illustrates that point:
A few years ago, a young man came to this newspaper office to have his picture made. He was a brilliant student and had won some kind of academic award. He also was possessed of an anti-establishment streak, and as he sat for his portrait, he put a paper bag over his head and refused to take it off.
Now, this brilliant young man obviously wanted to "afflict the comfortable," that is, us fuddy-duddies at the newspaper, but all he did was humiliate a hard-working and gifted photographer who was trying to do his job.
And so, SUB, we submit to you that you are not really striking a blow for the downtrodden with your art; you are not "sticking it to the man." You are just making life a little more difficult for the working-class man or woman who has to scrape your pictures off the wall.
That's not comforting the afflicted; that's being an arrogant, self-absorbed jerk.
The Inky Wretch