Writers of the Iron Road

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As an art form, graffiti on freight trains evokes a wide range of responses. Some consider graffiti writers vandals, others amass photos of work by their favorite artists. One objective reality about freight train graffiti that it is illegal. On the other hand, many large companies and municipalities now hire artists with a pedigree in illegal graffiti to do commissioned murals. Rarely, a writer’s trajectory could lead to commercial success, more often it can lead to fines and jail time.

Another given about train graffiti is that it does travel, and as such might be some of the most widely viewed art work in the nation, reaching people — if only peripherally —  who may never set foot in an art gallery. As a rural state, South Dakota may not exactly be a hotbed of graffiti, but encountering work by an urban artist in the isolated butte country of Harding County shows how built-to-roll these works really are.

Wakinyan Chief is a former graffiti artist. Your SDPB Arts & Culture correspondent caught up with him as he was spray painting an installation in Rapid City’s art alley. The alley, and his piece, is sanctioned by the city. But growing up in Chico, California, Chief got his start doing illegal graffiti…

via SDPB. View more here.

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