Some say that a picture is worth a thousand words. I wonder if the picture may be worth more if it represents something that has passed on from this world and no longer lives among us.
Street art and stencil work have some of the highest kill rates among all artistic creations. Due to their basic principles, being mostly illegal works placed on private property, they run the constant risk of being erased, power-washed, or painted over by property owners.
On one hand, who can blame them? But on the other hand, when a stencil becomes part of your daily life, as an ever-present visual reminder of free will and creativity, a proverbial scar on the skin of society, telling the stories of where we’ve been and how that made us who we are today, it is hard not to feel mournful when they are wiped clean of existence.
The following photos document the recent passing of a few of my personal favorites, which have since been put to rest. These images were taken from the Harmony Place tunnel off of Main Street, never to be seen again, but to live on in the shadow of every footstep we take in and around town.
This piece, which I call “SkullKing,” may be gone from this location, but still holds a towering and commanding view over Brattleboro from the heights of Mount Wantastiquet in New Hampshire. Death’s daily reminders are sometimes loud screams, but in the style of “SkullKing,” can sometimes be more like soft echoes in the ears of the living. Your honesty spoke volumes to my soul, and I tip my hat to you, sir.
This next image is a little more of a personal heARTbreak for me. There are fewer poetic injustices more unsavory than painting over an anarchy symbol in efforts to white-wash (red-wash) the town. I always saw this patchwork message as a bit of the salt and pepper that make Brattleboro taste really good.
(Love is the Battlefield of an Anarchic and Free Vermont or is it An Anarchy-Free Vermont or perhaps Free Anarchist Vermont or finally Love Vermont, an Anarchist-Free Battlefield)
Chances are excellent that I am reading the wrong things into these messages, but that was the glory of them, that they selflessly created a starting point for internal conversation. Thus is the strength of ART, in general, as a vehicle for social thought and change, to say the very least.
And on my daily walks to work, rushing and stressing about money, or emotions, or the state of the world that I am bringing my son up in, I so appreciated these gentle reminders that there is always time to be silly or weird or morbid or extreme. I always felt a strange kinship with these three supposed criminals, especially considering that laws can only be upheld if We, the People continue to give them legs to stand on.
So, my deep condolences go out to everyone who will also miss these daily messages through the tunnel, but perhaps we can all come together in the gratitude and understanding that this is not just a death, but the opportunity for energy to transform into something else.
Because after all, what is a blank wall but yet another canvas.
And now for my final edit and the epitaph to end all epitaphs:
Death on the Battlefield, but Free Love in Anarchic Vermont