Graffiti isn’t for everyone, but it is. Whether I like it or not, whether I want it or not, it is right there in my face. Staring me down. Daring me to react. It is raw, untamed, full of emotion and sometimes… pink.
Inside the ladies bathroom at the MOCA in Los Angeles I was attacked by pink. Big, fat, pink letters vibrated out at me, rebellious, insistent, throbbing across the stalls. I did not know what they spelled at first. It didn’t seem to matter. They existed loudly- they overextended their boundaries, they misbehaved, they were heavily outlined in black, in BLACK! As if there were rules big, fat pink letters had to follow, ha!
I thought, “What do they say?” followed quickly by, “Who cares what they say?”
I flashed on a traumatic moment from sixth grade. I had always outlined my art in black. It “contained” the image for me. It was somehow important to me that I did so. I don’t know why. It was my “thing.” One day, the teacher told us to draw anything, but with NO BLACK OUTLINES. What can I say? I forgot. She was very mad and yelled at me. I didn’t want to draw much at school after that. What a bitch. I could’ve been a natural born graffiti artist and didn’t even know it. Why do our childhood selves let go of our passions so easily? Why do we let ourselves be bullied into following the rules?
The big pink letters said to me, “I know you come into these public rooms all the time and are bored stupid by the banal ritual of cleaning your bladder and intestines, washing your hands and staring at yourself once again in a half clean mirror. Like you, I got sick of it, sick of the meaninglessness of the ritual, of walking into a room and doing what I was told to do, day after day. So I told my artist friend to get out a canister of bright pink paint and together, we did something about it. Now what are YOU going to do about YOUR boredom with YOUR life, huh?” Then the big fat pink letters laughed so hard at me I started to laugh, too. It was all so ridiculous, to be contemplating the very meaning of my life in the toilet.
I wanted to grab my boyfriend and pull him into the ladies room to give him a peek at this alphabetic sideshow but then it struck me- we were at a “Street Art” exhibit. The authorities from the museum had probably INVITED someone to spray paint in the bathrooms! Oh, I was in love then- in love with about a hundred people or more who together had decided this was a good idea. I wanted to shout for my boyfriend then to “come see, come see,” but I suddenly realized he might be having a similar experience in the men’s room. I hoped he was. I hoped he was getting violently assaulted by fat, vibrating letters. I hoped they were smothering him with color, spelling out a word or words whose meaning would always be unknown to us, but whose existence we would never forget.
I peeked inside a stall to see if there was some other verbiage hiding, wondering if there might be a mean surprise, perhaps a giant plastic dookie floating in each bowl, unable to be flushed down. But I was way off. Graffiti isn’t a cheap party joke. It’s a statement of purpose- a larger than life wink back at the rest of us, similarly anonymous and silent, nameless yet full of feeling, hungry to be seen. I gasped when I saw what had been spray painted over each bowl. There it was! The wink! Above the toilet a big round face with one round eye had been painted, the other eye a literal “X” marking the spot- as if it were winking! A giant toothy grin pulled itself across the bottom of the whole head and a little heart floated above the three hairs that sprouted from just above where ears would be. Every stall had one, and each one was in a pinkish purple color.
I took a picture of myself in that stall, sitting on the john, with the head floating behind me, just like the little heart was floating above it. We were in a relationship now. Some people might think I was colluding with their rebellion. Others might think I was just plain weird- to take a photo of myself sitting on a toilet? Dude. What’s up with that?
What was up was an SOS from the kind of people I want to be closer to. I took a picture because I didn’t want to forget them. Those people who are (albeit strangers) comrades in love, who see life as I do- who have an innate understanding that we all sometimes need to be thrown off our guard in order to feel anything good at all. Fully grasping the power of a simple childlike vision, these people bombard the adult world with images pulled instinctively from their youth and share them with abandon, lest the rest of us smother under the gray weight of our own lack of joy.
I say, “Long live random acts of art.” Their intuitive nature keeps me in the moment, frees me from the thousand pounds of worry I tend to drag with me wherever I go. The simpler the graffiti the more powerful it can be. One big pink word changed me forever inside- even after (oh fuck) I finally figured out it spelled my ex-boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend’s name (say WHAT?)
One of these days, I am going to start living the life I always thought I should be, the life I imagine my ex’s ex girlfriend’s do- wild lives, full of art and freedom. When I do (and I will, by GOD I will) I want big pink letters spray painted in my bathroom, so I never again forget who I really am. Perhaps the letters have to come first, and my life will follow.
Does anybody know where to buy pink spray paint?