Arts and Living Editor
“I have been abandoned by God, stranded, toiletpaperless,” begins a poem of tragedy on the side of a Kyser second floor bathroom stall. This is only one example of the various scribblings from students across the walls of our campus bathrooms.
“I think in the bathroom its private, and you have the idea that you’re isolated,” Phyllis Lear, art history professor, said. “Anybody can hear but they can’t see you. I think there’s a privacy there where you can speak without having to worry about what anybody thinks.”
Graffiti is a place of self-expression which is anonymous in a public domain. It offers a unique way to represent the slice of society it has been placed in, on the bathroom walls and beyond.
According to Lear, the practice of graffiti is arguably the first form of art and basis for expression. Happy messages bring light in bathroom stalls and streets alike, and the act of anonymous vandalism can provide an outlet for political protest in countries where graffiti exists as the only way to speak out.
Even still, the act is destruction of property, and rampant homophobic, racist and sexist imagery often appear through means of graffiti. This imagery also exists in NSU’s bathrooms.
According to Dale Wohletz, physical plant director, while there is some maintenance to cover up all graffiti, as it is a constant problem that happens every day and is hard to maintain, their efforts are mostly put towards painting over the vulgar expressions in bathroom stalls as soon as they notice or are notified.
“We are not only what we eat physically, but we are also composed of what we eat and digest visually,” Lear said. ‘It does matter.”
Lear is aware of the harm graffiti can cause. She said that society must be aware that such angry and frightened people exist, and society needs to be prepared to take responsibility on educating them,
One way she suggests teaching them is possible education in the bathroom as a direct counterpart.
“As long as there is frustration, I don’t think it’s going to stop,” Lear said. “In every culture since the beginning of time people have wanted to express something.”
While graffiti in bathroom stalls is a form of self-expression and reflection of those responsible for drawing it, the question of whether it can be defined as art is more heavily debated.
“It really goes along with art in general with how art can just have positive or negative effects,” senior Rhiannon Venable said.
Venable said the bathroom walls’ tendency to reflect society would be an argument that delves into the internet fads, reflection of pop culture and our current need for our humor to have instant gratification.
“It is school property, and I’ts technically against the rules,” Venable said.
Venable said covering up the graffiti is a waste of money and resources as they would soon be written over again rendering painting over them pointless.
“People are just going to keep doing it and doing it, and no one’s being hurt by it,” Venable said. “At least not in the girl’s room.”
Ruben Smith, junior, had a very different perspective.
“You go into the stall, and you are the kind of person who can be affected by the words,” Smith said. “You go in and see that. It’s not really self-expression but more like vulgarity and satire.”
From Nazi symbolism to KKK graffiti, Smith believes there could be a greater effort cover up the vulgar parts of the bathroom walls.
“We cannot let someone who drew a swastika in the bathroom define our society,” Smith said. “We have this ugly side of us, and that’s bathroom graffiti.”
Regardless of mixed opinions, graffiti exists as a letter to the world which produced it, a direct reflection etched rigged into the dying white paint of the bathroom stalls.
With negative and positive connotations alike, the chance for personal expression is always there.
The only question is should you take it?