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A Look Inside the Batcave

Like all great graf places, the batcave in Brooklyn is slated for demolition to build ... wait for it ... luxury apartments. But here it is as is.

Dating back to the 1950s, the Gowanus Batcave is one of the City's oldest graffiti havens. Similar to its Queens counterpart 5 Pointz, the Batcave is being demolished and converted into residences. In this immersive 360° video from the New York Times, peek inside the graffiti-filled Batcave before it is gone for good.

 


River City Skate Park

River-City-Skatepark-in-WAMany skate parks across the world are filled with wonderful street art. Today I want to give a shout out to River City Skate Park in Seattle Washington.

According to their site, River City SkatePark project has been in the works for 15 years. Initially generated as a business plan by three South Park high school students, this once neglected property has blossomed into an incredibly unique skatepark. There’s nothing else like it in the world!

Designed by our late friend, visionary and founder of Grindline, Mark “Monk” Hubbard, River City is a beautiful concrete structure with four doors in the cardinal directions and one continuous, circular half pipe with lines through the middle. Experienced skaters from around the world visit this park, but many people in the area are unable to enjoy it because of the level of difficulty. We’ve been gathering design ideas from skaters and non-skaters alike to ensure that the new and improved RCSP draws people from many crowds and accommodates a variety of uses. Please help us honor Monk’s vision – to finish building River City SkatePark and help build a healthy community space for people to gather and express themselves.


Sicanje, an Ancient Balkan Tattoo Tradition, Draws a New Generation

Bosian tattoosThis from Atlas Obscura -

For millennia, women adorned their daughters, and sometimes sons, with symbols of belonging and protection. Then the practice vanished—until now.

For millennia, women in what is now Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina performed sicanje—the word means, literally, “to prick”—on their daughters. Using needles and a mixture of soot, spit, honey, and breast milk, the tattooing tradition covered the hands, chest, and sometimes forehead with deeply symbolic patterns.

In the 1920s, anthropologist Edith Durham wrote that sicanje had passed from one generation of women to the next for nearly 4,000 years. In the mid-20th century however, it vanished. Now, a new generation of Balkan women—and men—is reviving the tradition as part of a larger trend to reclaim and celebrate their heritage.

“Unfortunately we don’t have any primary sources [about the tradition’s origins]. We only have the Greeks talking about them as their opponents,” says Marija Maracic, coauthor of The Sicanje Project, an oral and visual history of the tradition. In written histories and on vases and other artwork, ancient Greeks depicted Balkan people with tattoos, and archaeologists working in the region have discovered bronze tattooing needles in 3,000-year-old graves. Some of the ancient designs appear universal, such as the kolo circle, representing family and unity; it shares a name with a traditional dance still performed at weddings and family reunions. Other tattoos, such as a particular combination of motifs, appear to signify a specific village or tribe.

In fact, sicanje symbolized identity but also protection, blessing, and beauty for centuries. As the Balkans became Christianized in the ninth century, the pagan tradition of sicanje evolved to incorporate Catholicism. For example, the kriz, a pagan symbol of the four cardinal directions, became a stylized Christian cross. And while women had traditionally marked their adolescent daughters on the vernal equinox as a rite of passage, they began doing it on the feast day of St. Joseph, which falls close to the arrival of spring.

In the 15th century, sicanje transformed again, this time into an act of resistance. Under Ottoman rule, Christian Balkan families were levied devshirme, sometimes called the blood tax. Boys as young as eight were taken to Istanbul in a system designed to surround the emperor with loyal foreign servants, limiting the power of the Turkish elite. Devshirme were often well educated, and served as high-ranking soldiers and bureaucrats, but they were still far from home.

During this period, Catholic Balkan mothers began tattooing boys as well as girls, marking them prominently with symbols of protection and belonging. And if devshirme ever returned to their village as an adult, their sicanje would identify them, no matter how many years had passed.

As the Ottoman empire waned, sicanje continued on as a mark of beauty and religious and tribal belonging. The tattoos remained most common on women, but some men also carried the marks. In the mid-20th century, however, under the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the tradition of sicanje began to fade. Maracic says modernization, urbanization, and other trends changed attitudes about old customs. Women started to hide their marks, and their daughters declined to receive them. By the 1960s, sicanje lived on only in fading marks on grandmothers’ hands.

In the 21st century, a new generation of historians and artists are rediscovering the tradition. Maracic sees the growing global acceptance and interest in tattoos as a major factor in sicanje’s revival. Popularizing the nearly-lost art is also a way for people to celebrate their heritage and identity in a post-Yugoslavia world.

 


The Pothole Picasso

Jim bachorThe Washington Post reports on Jim Bachor's effort at filling in potholes with mosaics.

Jim Bachor travels across the country filling potholes for a living. He doesn’t just fill the unsightly road gaps with cement, he actually turns them into art — and often, social commentary. Bachor uses hundreds of pieces of Italian glass and marble that he cuts to create the sometimes subversive mosaics, which he installs on the ground to beautify unsightly city streets. He doesn’t work with cities on the installations, he works rogue, and he places the mosaics himself.

Bachor began his pothole art in Chicago, where he lives, by installing the word “pothole” in black and white marble in a road divot in 2013.“People loved it and thought it was funny,” he said. “Was it legal? I still don’t know. I decided to turn my hobby into a bit of a Robin Hood thing. If I had to ask for permission, I wouldn’t be doing this.” He was recently in D.C. making pothole mosaics of wolves for a conservation group.

Bachor’s work in Chicago includes filling street craters with mosaics of a TV remote control, cats, a Twitter blue check mark and the words “I couldn’t do this if I were Black” — as well as other images to make people stop and look, including the word “LIAR.” He’s worked in many cities, including New York, where he’s made mosaics of dead rats, pigeons and cockroaches. He was called “Pothole Picasso” by the New York Post.

In D.C., Bachor was hired by the #RelistWolves Campaign, a privately-funded group that is working to get Northern Rocky Mountain wolves reclassified as an endangered species in an effort to get them the same protection as other gray wolves.

Now he spends about 10 hours on each piece and said he has created 108 artworks, including commissioned installations for streets in Nashville, Philadelphia, New York City and Los Angeles.

 

 


The Best Street Art in Athens, Greece

One of the oldest cities in the world, full of history and the cradle of democracy and culture.

This is Athens. The ancient’s ‘glorious city’. And at the same time, a contemporary city that assimilates cultural trends and adapts them to its own character. It goes without saying that the modern urban religion of graffiti and street art is part of this: tags, throw-ups, wild style graffiti, political activist stencils, stickers, paste-ups and public art murals created for festivals and other projects. So if you love art and street culture, you’ll love discovering this lesser-known side of Athens.

Every neighborhood has a different story to tell.

 Keramikos & Gazi  Exarhia
 Metaxourgio  Piraeus
 Omonia  Rentis
 Psirri  The School of Fine Arts
 Monastiraki  The Polytechnic campus

Ra Paulette's Hand-Carved Caves

As showcased in Atlas Obscura, these amazing cave carvings are unusual and creative. But they are also closed to the public...

One man has carved a number of natural New Mexico caves into psychedelic sandstone temples. 

For over 25 years, New Mexico artist Ra Paulette has been creating natural crevasses in the New Mexico wilderness and painstakingly chiseling, digging, and carving intricate underground wonderlands.

In 14 different caves in the desert just north of Santa Fe, Paulette has created an underground fantasy world using nothing but the power of his own hands. Sometimes using preexisting crevasses and sometimes simply tunneling into the soft sandstone cliffs, the artist creates singular subterranean spaces to which he ascribes a sort of spiritual power.

No two of Paulette’s caves are alike, some featuring undersized doors or skylights that let the sun in, while others include benches carved right into the wall or deep niches for flickering candles. The walls of the caves are also decorated with carved designs ranging from flowers to abstract suns to purely emotive design flourishes; all look as though they formed naturally because they are etched into the cave walls themselves.

Paulette considers his creations more of a hobby or public service than a money-making venture and generally just leaves the caves to be discovered by others when he is finished. He hopes that those that come after him can discover some peace or epiphany in his chambers. Paulette finds his joy in creating things, not necessarily the things’ finished states.

Know Before You Go

Most of the caves now sit on private property, and because of past issues with trespassers, the owners have closed the caves to the public.


The Benefits of Looking at Art

 
IMG_3824I knew that when I look at art I feel good - or at least better. Now there is a study proving that out.

Robert Lederman sent me this interesting article which I also think should include street art. What better way to feel the positive effects of art as you walk down the street and see an amazing mural.
 
Past research has shown that looking at art, whether in a museum, gallery, or home, can benefit your mental health. And now, a recent study suggests that the positive effect holds true for viewing art online as well. The study, from the University of Vienna’s Arts and Research on Transformation of Individuals and Society, concluded that just one or two minutes of exposure to online art improved participants’ mood, anxiety, loneliness, and overall well-being.
 
“The results of this paper suggest that online cultural engagement, including but not limited to fine art, does seem to be a viable tool to support individuals’ mood, anxiety, loneliness, and well-being especially when such content is beautiful, meaningful, and inspires positive cognitive-emotional states in the viewer,” the authors wrote. If you are looking to tap into the mental health benefits of art from your own home, there are plenty of options to explore — we suggest starting with Smithsonian’s roundup of the best virtual exhibitions from 2020.
 
Art photo by Charlene Weisler

Street Art in Buenos Aires

A traveler got lost in Buenos Aires but the street art got them home.

Buenos Aries street artStreet art in Buenos Aires has a very different history than graffiti in the States. Graffiti began in Buenos Aires back in the 1950s, when the dictatorial government coming into power paid people to write slogans and spread what was essentially political graffiti. In the 1970s all forms of self-expression came to a halt, and nothing appeared on the streets again until the 1990s, when hip-hop reached South America and spawned it’s own brand of tag-like graffiti. The street art movement first took shape in 2001, however, during the economic crash. With so many Argentineans out of work and living on the streets, the rise of street art was seen as a people’s movement, and continues on today with the same popularity and enthusiasm.