Last week, a story aired on the local news that a vandal in the Albuquerque area had been apprehended and made to pay to restore the buildings that had been damaged by his colorful graffiti. Albuquerque is no stranger to tagging and street vandals, however this was a different story. Artist Ernest Doty is being accused of unauthorized graffiti on several buildings in the downtown Albuquerque area; a charge I strongly disagree with.
The first time I experienced Doty's work was on a site visit to downtown Albuquerque with my architecture studio. While taking photos for a precedent study and for later renderings, I noticed a pair of brightly painted shoes hanging from the telephone wire. Although seeing shoes hanging isn't unusual in that area, or city, these were out of the ordinary. I soon found out more about Doty's artwork around the city through his flickr page and was captivated. This was no tagger, this was an artist.
The infamous rainbow paint that had sparked the uproar wasn't unfamiliar to Albuquerque's urban landscape. I had spotted one on the side of the old Vassar graduate studio for architecture and planning one day, while another appeared on the Barelas Rail Yards machine shop. More and more were popping up as the weeks and months progressed. However, the straw that broke the camel's back was when Doty braved the Anasazi high rise in downtown Albuquerque, and left his vibrant signature.
Hearing about Doty being labeled as a vandal and criminal was certainly upsetting. Assertions were being made that what Doty had done was going to cost tax payers thousands of dollars to repair and that he was now putting lives at risk to repair what damage he had done to the Anasazi high rise. Albuquerque Chief Public Safety Officer Darren White went so far as to call him a knucklehead. Having been a victim of property damage and vandalism myself, I would gladly have a rainbow cascading down my wall, rather than the scribbled tags and graffiti that have been left in the past.
What's more is that the Anasazi building has been no gift to downtown Albuquerque. Construction on the high rise began in early 2007, and soon after the developers ran out of funding; and the building was left in solitude. The window openings went exposed to the elements and eventually vagrants. Beer bottles and garbage soon collected in the building's emptiness, and has become a public danger. Perhaps Safety Officer Darren White would have a comment to say about that? And although the Anasazi may have been taken over by the city of Albuquerque, it had yet to become the centerpiece that it promised to be for the downtown area.
Ernest Doty has brightened the skyline of downtown Albuquerque, and shown the public that art is still present and has an important role in our society. I would like to think that somewhere over the rainbow, public art will be appreciated. And if cleaning up Doty's art is going to be a safety issue, Darren White is more than welcome to lend a helping hand...