Written by Grace Hare
From crude illustrations on bathroom walls to entire buildings devoted to inspiring pieces of artwork; graffiti is a diverse craft. While graffiti has been built into society as a prominent rebellion and is frequently associated with misbehavior, the roots of the art might help recognize the birth of the practice.
The earliest graffiti is documented to a student named Darryl McCray in the 1960’s, who adopted the name Cornbread while in a youth discipline facility. The story goes that he complained about the white bread that was served with every meal, and asked for “cornbread like my grandma used to make,” which earned him the eventually notorious nickname.
When he returned to public middle school a year later, he developed a crush on a girl named Cynthia. To win the girl, and gain her attention, he proceeded to write “Cornbread loves Cynthia,” all across the city in spray paint.
However, over the past fifty years, the art has expanded. From the urban establishments that pay professional graffiti artists to decorate their buildings, to the teenagers who are charged with federal crimes; the punishment for graffiti comes into question. Is it unethical to sentence 10 years in prison to a youth that violated the public transit system?
Ultimately, however, most people believe it depends on the context of the art. “It depends on what the graffiti has in it. In New York there are places that are created for that kind of art, if it’s just bad words then it’s not art. If you’re violating a building by making it ugly and breaking a law, there are rules for a reason,” Spanish teacher Poly Reyes said.
Freshman Laurel Rabon feels similarly. “It takes artistic creative talent and guts to make graffiti because you could get arrested. It depends on what they’re drawing, but if the art is important their legal situation should be different,” she said.
For an anonymous student, who goes by the graffiti name ROWDY, the art is not only fun, but for the mystery. Even the Houston Chronicle reported the art that has begun showing up spontaneously across the city. “It isn’t a crime,” ROWDY laughed, “We’re decorating the place,” ROWDY said.
“I draw the stuff that’s on the freeway, behind the ‘Be Someone,’ the stuff on the railroad,” said ROWDY. A notebook is kept to draw the designs, “I sketch out my plan, and then I have a couple different styles to use,” they said. “I can use bubble, sharp, chicken scratch or cubed,” they said, “But I don’t like cubed.”
ROWDY’s family is aware of the graffiti, and some mystery hangs around how he manages to keep his art secret. “It’s important to pick up a different style,” ROWDY said in regards to not getting caught. “It’s a type of art,” ROWDY said, “And nobody should face jail if you’re doing something that doesn’t hurt anyone,” said ROWDY.
Renowned graffiti artist Banksy is decisive that graffiti is a creative outlet for people who might’ve never had that expression before. “Graffiti is one of the few tools you have if you have almost nothing. And even if you don’t come up with a picture to cure world poverty you can make someone smile while they’re having a piss,” he said.