Sunday, March 31, 2013

AZ Tangent: Snow & Jellyfish in Phoenix

by Trina and Greg

We pride ourselves on being the kind of rugged, brave, all-weather adventurers who can handle any and all kinds of conditions. There's a lot to be said for not balking at a little inclement weather, for being out there despite being wet, frozen and miserable. And though there's a lot to be said for it, we thought maybe this time, the less said the better.

Which is why, when we learned that three days of rain, snow, hail and wind were heading our way in Arizona, we promptly postponed the already-cold-water boating portion of our trip, and tucked tail and limped into Phoenix where we seized an opportunity to spend a snow day warm and dry inside museums, galleries and coffee shops.

We happily stumbled into the funky, artsy district where, inbetween violent bursts of hail that pummeled the desert city, we walked from cafe to gallery to garden to museum to cafe for most of a day.

As with any urban adventure, this one included sightings of graffiti, but in this case the graffiti was particularly surprising. There was, of course, the run-of-the-mill stuff -- gang names in indecipherably tweaked fonts, non sequitur words in random locations, quick and sloppy scrawls of spraypaint -- but what caught our eye and made us smile were the jellyfish. Lots of jellyfish. In a desert city.

I don't know a lot about graffiti. I do know that it usually represents some kind of low grade social protest. It's a movement, a subculture, sometimes with themes that are relevant to current events in that city. And I know that each graffiti artist will have a style that is recognizable if you're familiar with the street artists in an area. On our single snow day in a fairly small portion of the city, we saw three different styles of jellyfish graffiti, suggesting that three different artists were doing their own renditions of the same theme. Jellyfish. In the desert. Why?

When we got home from Arizona, I got on the internet to see what I could find out. The closest I got to a possible clue was this, on a Phoenix New Times blog:

"The city refuses to sponsor legal walls like the ones at Miranda's Custom Cars or at the Madison Event Center downtown. Instead, they spend $2.4 million on a public sculpture that looks like a floating jellyfish, and they fork over $2.3 million a year to have illegal graf buffed."

My guess, then, is that this is graffiti artists saying, "Jellyfish? Really? I gotchyer jellyfish riiiiight here."

Maybe not. Maybe it's some underground symbol for something we aren't privy to. Maybe it's just a few street artists having fun. Whatever the concept, if there is one, behind the jellyfish, we thought they were beautiful and strange and delightful.

And for whatever reason -- or not -- jellyfish are alive and well in New York, too.

More urban beauty: