As most of you know, today’s a bank holiday here in the States to honor the life of Dr. Martin Luther King. I guess it’s on days like this, when we don’t have to rush off first thing in the morning to work, that we begin to take stock of all that’s happened in the last few months.
And while things have been absolutely amazing not just for us but for many of those around us, we do feel that it’s important to take a moment and recognize that the last few weeks have been extremely rough and incredibly sad for many.
In the last two weeks alone, three graffiti artists that we are aware of - including a 13 year old boy - have been killed by trains both in London and in New York.
On Friday night, two people died on a British rail line as they ran from security while tagging the trains. Exactly one week before, a 13-year-old boy who had just finished painting a piece was hit and killed by a Long Island Rail Road commuter train in Queens during the evening rush hour.
It’s impossible for us not to feel incredibly sad for the kids and their families but also, as Case pointed out to us in an email on Saturday, the grief that this has caused to the train drivers, friends, family, etc
While we don’t highlight a lot of traditional bombing and tagging on the Wooster site, we do recognize that a lot of people who come to the site are either currently painting trains or thinking about doing it. All we can say is that if you’re planning on hitting the yards, take a second and think about it before you head out.
When you see 13 year old kids dying, it has to make you stop and think.
One of the emails that we received the other day that we wanted to share today is this from Dan in Vermont. It made us so incredibly sad, but at the same time - extremely hopeful. One can only wish that they have friends like Dan:
“I am writing to inform you of my friend, Max Cancellieri. Max was 18, and attended Vermont Academy, in Saxton’s River, VT. Max started writing graffiti, from what his friends can recollect, around 9th grade. His throwups were JinxRel, sometimes just Rel, and “THT”, which stood for “think happy thoughts”. Max was a natural, excelling in graffiti and studio art. His studio art work was dark, cartoonish, but scathingly satirical of the morals of modern American society, the most famous of which being “The Hug”, which featured the oblique shapes of two humans hugging, both different colors, along with the caption, “Oh No!”, or sometimes something different depending on Max’s attitude at the time. Another recurring character of his was Edgar, a cartoon profile of a weathered, grotesque man who was undoubtedly Max’s take on what it was like to be put through the system, so to speak. Max was arrested and charged with Vandalism by Graffiti in August, 2006 and again in November of the same year, in Boston, MA.
Max’s graffiti influenced his friends undeniably. His best friend, Jay, who is my roommate, began writing towards the beginning of 2006, his other best friend/roommate Steven and myself began later in the year, bouncing ideas off of Max and being inspired by his undeniably genius work and sick handstyle.
Sadly, Max was becoming more and more overwhelmed by the society in which he lived. When he was arrested the second time for writing graf, the boston cops roughed him up a bit, calling him a faggot, asking him what he was doing writing on walls that werent his, and confiscated his shoes and pants, leaving him in jail for the night in just his underwear, and he appeared in court the next morning in the same state of undress. Max thought that no one would appreciate his art, that the world was a horrible place full of ignorant, unnappreciative people, and 3 weeks ago, he hung himself at his home in Armunk, New York.
Max was one of the most talented artists I have ever seen, hands down. If he hadn’t taken his own life, he would have been kinging cities before he was 20. His art was amazing, and the legacy he left behind is staggering. Before he killed himself, he painted two final paintings whose emotional impact is incredible. At the ceremony, his crew (THT) was allowed to paint his casket before he was buried. His mom wrote, “Bye Max” on it as well, and we all agreed, she has the dopest Mom handstyle we’ve ever seen. The casket came out amazing, I have never seen anything like it. During the ceremony, the synagogue reeked of spray paint, and it was at that point we realized that Max’s art was too significant as well as brilliant to keep silent.
Max never got the recognition he deserved, he was never able to king a city, to get up with the likes of his heroes, even though he shared their talent, dedication, and passion. Max loved Wooster Collective, especially how it gave artists with the heart and talent the chance to shine. Please help us give Max his chance to shine.
Max always reminded me of Van Gogh, from the time I first met him, and it is easier to deal with knowing that his taking of his own life was not just an act of desperation, but sort of the companion piece to Max’s final works. As messed up as that might sound to some, we’re all looking at things a bit differently upon realizing that this was partly another one of Max’s dynamic attempts at empowering his art. He would have given anything for it, and eventually, he did.
The night that Max took his own life, he was supposed to be going to the Wooster on Spring Street opening in NY. Rest assured, we love Wooster Collective and think that you guys are one of the reasons why art will prevail.”