Miniature in the Mail #30: "Back to Basics"

"Back to Basics," 4x6in., oil on masonite

This bit of graffiti on a tree trunk in a seaside town, in this exact arrangement, took me aback. It was lit as if on a film set and it blocked the main view down the sidewalk, creating tension and calling out to be seen as protagonist. It was so white and smooth it looked as though it had been gessoed.

The desecration of a graceful object like a large tree or work of art, in contrast to a security fence, concrete rampart, or billboard, causes immediate cringing and discomfort. Quick, cheap art on cold, mercenary structures is one thing—it gets what it's asking forbut that same art on objects that have taken decades to mature or embody years of loving dedication is quite another.

At the same time, we've been scrawling our marks on the world for as long as we've been able to stand on two feet with a bit of soot on our fingers, as several prehistoric caves around the world attest. And we haven't always asked for permission.

You could see tagging or initials carved into a tree trunk as blight, in the same way a hamburger ad held up in the sky against a view of a lake or hills is too. It's also a deeper current of art making by the little guy, crude as it may be. A return to basics.

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