Photo: Graffiti under Stevenson Bridge, near Davis, California.
I normally don’t have a lot to say about graffiti. But there is just something about the spray paint that covers every inch of the historic Stevenson Bridge in Yolo County near Davis that frees up my poetic license. The first time I visited the bridge I stood awestruck before it. It was a sea of color, words, characters, and dare I say it, art. In my mesmerized state I began vivid hallucinations of counter-culture revolutions that smelled of Dadaism, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. Or maybe it was simply the overwhelming fumes of fresh spray paint seeping from the warm concrete that made me wax nostalgic. Whatever the case, I was having a pleasant viewing experience and an epiphany of sorts.
For the past few years there has been a term floating around that has graced these graffiti demons with some semblance of credibility. The term is Urban or Street Art. My visit to the bridge that day was driven by my desire to capture some amazing color through bracketed exposures and later merging into a HDR (High Dynamic Range) photograph. But my underlying desire was driven by my motivation to understand what this group of what some would call “ne’er-do-well malcontents” were trying to say to the world. I spent a lot of time under the bridge that day, kicking my way through the half full cans of spray paint, empty forties and burger wrappers, just trying to get hold of the message. And then I saw it. Written in bright yellow were the words “Korrupted Artistic Sadists”. Silence. At that very moment I felt as if I had stumbled upon the Holy Grail but I wasn’t quite sure why. So I did what every good documentary photographer would do. I clicked my shutter button to preserve this indelible moment in history and left.
After several days of edits, I came across this photo of those now indelible words. But I still didn’t grasp their meaning. I could put my own spin on to it but feared it would be a bit off-putting with the younger crowd. So I decided to turn to the bible of street banter, that holy of holies, the urbandictionary.com for my answer. This is what the gurus of slang told me. Korrupted by definition means: “Usually urban artists attaining fame through graffiti around their city. They are known to have the sickest and most wicked styles of their area, and to be highly respected by all other urban artists of their area.” The word Artistic could mean: “Being mildly retarded” or “Being artsy or having the ability to create art”. If I were to be somewhat politically correct, I would of course stick with the latter. And finally the term Sadists: there were several references to the Marquis de Sade and the Republican party, however here is the general consensus: “One who gets pleasure from the suffering of others.”
There you have it. The Korrupted Artistic Sadists are “sick and wicked urban artists who are possibly mildly retarded and quite artsy, can relate to the Marquis de Sade, are most likely Republican and get pleasure from the suffering of others.” Dare I say more? I think not…