Occupy America

… but it will be seen all over the streets of New York City!

I’ve been a passionate lover and documentarian of street art for many years now, who is frequently stopped dead in my tracks when a new poster, stencil, or sticker suddenly catches my eye. I love when I see a new work of art on a sidewalk, wall, or lamppost that makes me smile, think, or both. I adore street art for the color and creativity it adds to public space, and admire those ballsy artists who exercise their freedom of expression by utilizing the city streets as their canvas, turning our communities into museums for the masses, under the cover of darkness. Street art is thankfully accessible to everyone and a real reflection of what’s going on in our culture at its deepest roots. In its most elevated forms, street art beautifies and transforms otherwise bland, cookie-clutter urban landscapes with exciting splashes of color, capturing the attention of passersby with wit and whimsy, shock and style.

Over the past several months, I’ve observed a definite change in the tone and topic of  New York City street art, with an increasing slant towards bold, in-your-face, political backlash, and socially conscious commentary. The following slideshow highlights some of the best pieces I’ve stumbled across in my city sojourns lately:

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If you’re interested in seeing more, please visit my street art photography gallery here. I also particularly dig the work featured on Brooklyn Street Art and Street Art Utopia, which provide great eye candy right to your news feed via their Facebook pages.

Street art is an excellent gauge of our social temperature, so it’s not surprising that given recent current events, our city’s streets are mirroring the people’s increasing outrage towards the out of control culture of corporate greed, our plunging economy, the death of the American dream, our government’s dysfunctional paralysis, and its seeming unwillingness to do much of anything about all of the above.

Artists are often the first to speak out on such issues, and born of out of this widespread frustration, outspoken civic-minded street art has become more prevalent. As a sign of the times, this rise has beautifully intersected with the Occupy Wall Street movement, encouraging the other 99% of Americans to take to the streets and speak out about the variety of cultural injustices we’re facing, despite daily opposition from the NYPD and local government agencies.

At first, the mainstream media all but ignored what had been taking shape in Lower Manhattan. As it’s become clear that the protesters are gaining in numbers and clearly not going away, the right-wing media in particular has spun the story to portray an “unfocused hippie circus”, rather than a legitimate, empowered social movement. Nevertheless, the cause continues to gather momentum and support with each passing day. It will be fascinating to see how it evolves as the year draws to a close.

If you’re dissatisfied with the depth or lack of media coverage the movement has been garnering, and interested in learning more about the national Occupy America movement, I suggest tuning into a handful of less well known media outlets that seem to be reporting on the revolution with a more evolved, thoughtful perspective. They include: Occupy Wall Street (on FB); RT TV America; NPR; and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The Nation recently published a great breakdown of FAQ regarding OWS, which also addressed Adbusters involvement in the cause. The Huffington Post has even added a very comprehensive page, dedicated solely to OWS on its website, with the byline “Some News Is So Big It Needs Its Own Page”.

In the meantime, give another listen to Gil Scott-Heron’s 1970 protest song, which feels as timely as ever… though one might adapt it for modern times to say, “The Revolution will not be televised. It will not be tweeted, uploaded to You Tube, or become your friend on Facebook. The Revolution will not be digitized.”

Or will it?