© 2015 Tessie Barrera-Scharaga. Website designed by Gabrielle Scharaga

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Off the Wall

Mixed media installation incorporating ceramics, graffiti, steel, found objects, and video.

2000

Off the Wall is an artistic collaboration between Tessie Barrera-Scharaga, an artist living and working in San Jose, California, local designer and contractor Jose Loyola, a group of graffiti artists from the South Bay including Javier Ruiz and Sam Rodriguez, and the 2000 MFA Class at Mills College, in Oakland, California. The installation combines graffiti with ceramics, steel, found objects and video in an effort to explore new spaces in which graffiti can be expressed, opening new possibilities for its existence. 

The installation presents a large mythological creature on the background panels. Ceramic platters covered in graffiti, originating from the stomach of the beast, come off the wall. They take over the table, pushing traditional plates to the floor. A chair nearby directs the viewer to eat. On the walls surrounding the central elements of the piece, there are video elements and multiple canvas panels showing a combination of mixed-media pieces and graffiti.

In the late 1990’s, the state of California introduced legislation that turned graffiti from a misdemeanor into a felony. Since graffiti art is practiced mainly by young street artists, the new offenders battling the legal system are mostly minority teenagers. History books tell us that human beings have been marking their environments since pre-historic times. Is graffiti then a natural human impulse to leave a record of ourselves, our beliefs, and our practices in the environment, or is it an aberration, the product of a criminal mind? I think of my work not so much as a political stance, but rather, an invitation to the analysis of situations I find questionable. Those who are in positions of power are critically important to the construction of meaning. They make rules and they influence our perceptions and our judgements. Who and what determines our appreciation of graffiti? Who sees it as a threat? Who can appreciate its beauty?

Dedicated to my beloved Amanda, in the spirit of friendship, acceptance, and compassion with which you lived your life.