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It’s weird and sometimes wonderful, but is it art?

It’s weird and sometimes wonderful, but is it art?
HARRY & LINDA KAYE PEREZ Graffiti art offers a wide scope of subject matter, from intricate lettering and political slogans, to pop culture imagery, such as this “Star Wars” stormtrooper that decorates a building in San Antonio.

Graffiti isn’t new, not by a long shot. Possibly the first known graffiti were figure drawings on walls of the surface of rocks or boulders in Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia as early as the first century BC. The eruption of Mount Vesuvius (79 AD) preserved graffiti in Pompeii, including Latin curses, magic spells, declarations of love, political slogans, and famous literary quotes, providing insight into ancient street life.

Evidence of graffiti has been documented from the Mayan culture in Guatemala, Viking graffiti in Rome, in Ireland, and in the Hagia Sophia at Constantinople.

During World War II and for decades after, the phrase “Kilroy was here” with an accompanying illustration was widespread throughout the world, due to its use by American troops; it ultimately trickled down into American popular culture. Student protests in Paris, May 1968, covered the city with graffiti expressing revolutionary, anarchistic, and political slogans.

Today, graffiti is everywhere in the world, and, like it or not, it’s here to stay.

Most graffiti artists are aware of the threat of facing consequences for displaying their graffiti, as it is usually done illegally on building walls, so many want to remain anonymous, while still identifying their “works of art.” Unlike traditional artists, who sign their names to their art, graffiti artists use a “tag,” such as initials or symbols, as their personalized signature.

A legal ’gallery’

There is one place where graffiti is actually encouraged. In keeping with Austin’s mantra to “Keep Austin Weird,” there is the Graffiti Park at Castle Hills, also called Hope Outdoor Gallery. Some actually refer to it as a three-story playground for artists.

The story goes that developers were planning to create a residential area in this downtown location, but ran into zoning problems, leaving massive concrete walls that some regarded as an eyesore. Apparently, these walls were irresistible to some graffiti artists. Surprisingly, the owners of the property did not consider this vandalism, but instead happily allowed artists to come and paint on their property.

The park is located on Baylor and 11th streets in the heart of Austin. You can’t miss it!

Author’s note: We are not suggesting there is anything good about illegal graffiti and defacing someone else’s personal property, but done appropriately, it can be rather entertaining. We also found many excellent examples of graffiti on walls of businesses near downtown San Antonio.

Harry and Linda Kaye Perez are freelance writers from just down the road from Floresville. Together they share a passion for traveling and writing, and discovering the very best in all corners of the world. Email them at

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