Bathroom graffiti is an art form for some students


Brian Bauer

Graffiti on the bathroom wall of Espresso Royale on Daniel Street.

By Meral Aycicek, Staff Writer

Artists prefer different canvases, whether it be the blank page of a sketchbook or an untouched block of marble.

A popular option for aspiring artists on campus is the anonymous surface of a bathroom stall.

Eduardo Martinez, junior in LAS, started a blog called UIUC Graffiti for a class last semester. He said he started the blog to focus mainly on bathroom graffiti and to see if there was something significant about the bathroom graffiti that blog writers could analyze.

“The way I view graffiti, it’s the voice of counter culture,” he said.

He has seen everything, from swastikas to empowering quotes, while photographing various campus bathrooms.

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“I think people write on bathroom walls because it’s such a place of anonymity,” Martinez said. “If someone has a radical opinion but they’re not so outspoken about, or they’re afraid of getting backlash, they’ll just put it on a bathroom wall and see what happens, get a response.”

He described bathroom walls as the perfect medium for people who have a message or opinion they can’t post or discuss anywhere else.

“The English building is probably the most drawn up place. The first floor bathrooms, for the guys, those are just destroyed with graffiti. There’s a lot of political conversations on there saying stuff about, Donald Trump and Nazis and oppression and stuff,” he said. “It’s also interesting how when you go to Altgeld, for example, the writings and pictures become a lot less tolerant.”

Greer Durham, freshman in LAS, said the type of graffiti tends to depend on the building.

“In the bathroom of The Red Herring, which is known for being very inclusive, a lot of the stuff on the bathroom wall is like free love, every person is a person and all these other things,” she said. “Whereas if you go to David Kinley Hall, there is a wall of people just having conversations with each other about random stuff. The venue, I guess you could say, determines what people are going to write on the walls.”

Tia Smith, freshman in FAA, said she has also seen a variety of bathroom graffiti. She said the variety points to the diversity of problems and opinions on a college campus.

“Usually they’re really personal things,” Smith said. “I just broke up with someone. I have cancer. I’m pregnant. I’m gay. Or sometimes it’s something really trivial like ‘hi’ or ‘Sam was here.’”

Smith said she’s read bathroom conversations between multiple people that sometimes result in arguments.

“I think it’s a very honest form of talking to other people,” Smith said. “It’s interesting to see the insights of other people because everyone uses the bathroom and everyone sees what’s being written.”

Durham said she isn’t opposed to any type of graffiti. She defined graffiti as any form of art in a place it’s not supposed to be.

“For me, art is when someone has an idea or a vision and goes and tries to create that vision. If that’s in a bathroom, it’s still art. If it’s graffiti, it’s still art,” Durham said.

Graffiti usually brings to mind complex, colorful and oftentimes illegal street art, but that’s not the universal definition. Graffiti is not limited to street art, though there are a few differences between bathroom graffiti and street graffiti.

Martinez said that the limitations in place for street art aren’t the same in bathroom graffiti. He also said many graffitists are trying to get their tag out to the public. Many times, their graffiti is also done out in the open.

“In a bathroom, let’s say you’re the only person in there,” Martinez said. “You could write a whole essay if you wanted to. You can draw a whole picture. And I think that that time and anonymity of it all is why bathroom graffiti sometimes comes out more radical that street graffiti.”

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