Vanity is a two-edged sword.
One edge is the desire to manifest yourself, to project your ego, which is responsible for most of the art and literature in the world, is the reason people leave their homes and strike out into the world. A laudable thing, to take the thimbleful of you that is bubbling around in your head and contrive to somehow paint the world with it.
The other edge is the desire to manifest yourself, all over a perfectly nice "L" car. To not care that your tag is just going to be a blocked window for someone inside, or, rather, that the Chicago Transit Authority will have to expensively remove it, taking up a lot of time, and jacking up the cost of transportation for all of us.
Which is more significant? I wouldn't dare try to say. The self-absorbed person starts to tell a story, and maybe the listener is fascinated, or maybe the listener is bored. Or one is fascinated and another are bored. By the same story. It depends on the skill of the teller, the inclinations for the listener. It changes with time and place. How you feel about graffiti depends on how you feel about society, capitalism, art, color, cities, trains. I deeply admire Banksy; the above, not so much, though I sympathize with the urge that sent some kid doing it. We want to leave our mark on the indifferent world.
These were taken at the CTA rail yard at Harlem/Lake terminal, by regular reader Francis Mullen, a rail operations switchman. He suspects they might have been done at the 63rd and Ashland yard and then moved to Harlem/Lake.
Asked for some thoughts on the photos, he replied:
"I don’t understand why this medium appeals to them. It’s our policy not to send these cars in service so their exposure is mostly limited to their forums. There is a cost to society, however, in that when we are short cars for service the supervisor is forced to adjust his schedule to spread the gap. So a 15 minute headway becomes 20. A severe shortage will produce noticeable delays. There’s also a cost to the shop janitor that puts aside her normal duties to clean these enormous paintings with some nasty chemicals. It takes hours to finish. I think these guys are thoughtless and arrogant in pursuit of their impish thrills. Buy some canvases already."
Then, a few minutes later, added,
"Besides the Kilroy was here aspect, I wonder if the transitory nature of their efforts adds to the thrill."
I hadn't thought of that. They value them because they are fleeting, the way that Buddhist monks spend hours creating these elaborate sand mandalas, sing a little song, then sweep them away. Could be.