When most people think about graffiti they think of gang tags and raunchy words maliciously spray-painted under bridges and in darkened alleys. But Portsmouth has a few interesting pieces of unconventional art that, while coming nowhere near the caliber of the floodwall murals, are interesting in their own right.
Portsmouth’s original concrete floodwall was built in 1909. The old wall proving no match for the mighty Ohio River in 1937, another wall was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The mural project was begun in 1992, and continues to be added to, updated and maintained. The paintings there seem to bring history to life in brilliant color. But some of the graffiti on the older wall down toward the camping area and community garden site has more of the look of cave paintings done in spray paint than fine art.
However, there is a certain urban-primitive type charm to the images of a train, a buffalo and a man playing a guitar that adorn this stretch of old concrete wall where most of the older graffiti has been painted over to rid the world of its blight.
Another spot of thought-provoking graffiti had appeared under the bridge during the spring of 2010, with several poems scrawled out in marker on the pylons along the walking path.
Graffiti did not come about with the advent of the spray can in the 20th century. Even ancient Rome saw its walls tagged with naughty images and the day’s equivalent of “Gaius was here.” But while graffiti is still considered vandalism, every now and then there is an image that sparks the imagination.
HEATHER DUMAS may be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 241, or firstname.lastname@example.org.