Fall 2009

Found Art: The Guiding Motivations

By Kristen Travagline

Skidmore College’s community is undoubtedly full of intelligent and highly creative people. It is natural, then, that the campus is characterized by young adults wishing to express themselves. Art, in its various forms, serves as an ideal medium for students looking to share their voice. And many students utilize these talents anonymously in the form of chalk grati, marker board drawings, strategically placed objects, decorated bicycles, and countless other tokens of creativity. Yet, why would students expend their time and energy creating a work of art without authorship? Numerous possible motivations guide them. Young people are naturally rebellious. What better way to feel the exhilarating rush of spontaneity without repercussions, than tagging a wall… with chalk or marker on a whiteboard. The combination of liberating, though mild, disregard for rules combined with creative energy is highly appealing, if not irresistible.

While these acts are personally rebellious or inspired, I would argue that individuals are drawn to anonymous art out of an instinctual desire to engage with the people around them. Humans are by nature social creatures. One basic reason for creating art is to aect others in some manner and elicit an emotional response. Perhaps the appeal lies in thinking of the countless students who see the text that you wrote on a wall along the quad, even if it just says “hey.” Anonymous art provides a way for individuals who have never interacted before to share a basic connection. If students are intrigued, shocked, or moved by a piece of found art, a dialogue could begin. Conversations are started and communication is generated. It is therefore appropriate for students to use anonymous art to generate publicity for a specic political agenda. For example on one corner of the quad is written, “Vote Obama.”

However, anonymous art does not need to be motivated by any personal gain. The most remarkable form of anonymous art comes from the simple desire to touch the life of another person and express yourself without fearing judgment or criticism. For instance, written on a wall along the dining hall is a poem of sorts stating, “I feel so done. Over-with. Had. Oh goodness gracious me! Me, me? Slipping slipping slipping but oh! Into your arms and how I want to.” Art like this can serve as a voice for those who need a means of stating what they simply can’t say out loud.

The simplistic motivations for found art allow for the spontaneous outpouring of passion and creativity which sometimes allows young adults to regain touch with the carefree moments of childhood. For instance, along a wall of the art building is a chalk drawing of pink, yellow, and green owers in a simple white vase with blue accents. Another very communicative form of dorm culture, the whiteboard, often shows similarly playful drawings such as a unicorn or a magical whale with a horn and hearts sprouting from its forehead. Many reasons exist for the creation of found and anonymous art. The signicance lies, however, less in its creation and more in its affect on the community at large. One should be conscious and take notice of the small examples of beauty that trace their everyday world.