American graffiti

Dear Lou: What’s the deal, you ask? You’ll forgive Ace if he’s reluctant to play societal psychologist, since he’s more at home with a pen and a cold one than leather couches and weird dreams about trains and cigars. Freudian jokes aside, however, Ace feels compelled to point out that graffiti is nothing new—scrawled vandalism has been found in sites as old as the ancient Roman city of Pompeii. And yes, our venerable Charlottesville (though not quite so old) has seen its fair share, too.
    One of the more prominent places for plucky painters to put public profiles and prolific punditry (whew!) is on Rugby Road’s Beta Bridge, a longtime billboard of sorts for UVA students. An outdoor wall at Charlottesville High School has served much the same purpose for years. And, of course, there’s the recently erected Community Chalkboard on the Downtown Mall, which actually encourages a chalk-centric version of this expressive act. The stencils that you have in mind, however, are a more recent phenomenon.

    The image of Condi (which, Ace must concede, looks pretty furious) is just one of many stenciled celebrity mugs that have sprung up in the past few years. Bob Saget and Charles Bronson (or at least their likenesses) could be seen in various places off Route 29 a while back, as reported in a 2002 story in The Daily Progress. An inscrutable etching of Dr. Cornelius from
Planet of the Apes, accompanied by the word “conquest,” was (and still is) visible in many areas.
    So who, exactly, would risk the law’s wrath for Chuck Bronson? (Besides Lee Marvin, that is.) That, Ace must report, is still a mystery, given the artistes’ understandable desire for anonymity. One follower of local graffiti, though, ventured his opinion as to why they might do it. Carter Felder, administrator of the website charlottesville graffiti.com, says, “It’s mainly all about the art and getting people’s attention.”

    Admirers of these bits of unorthodox local color had best not get too attached, however. Charlottesville officials have a system in place for wiping out graffiti, even when it’s on private property. Jerry Tomlin, of the City’s Neighborhood Development Services, noted that since his office started the program, “we’ve gone from about five [instances of graffiti] a day to two a week.” Bad news for those damn dirty apes, I guess.

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