All good things must come to an end.
For 20 years, I used the name “Juse One” as a graffiti moniker. For most of that time, the prospects for being a graffiti writer or artist (know the difference!) were pretty straight forward. You wrote your name wherever you could as much as you could with as much style as you could muster. Fame came from hard work and high quality. There were no cheap tricks. You simply had to put in work and play by the rules we (the collective subculture of graffiti) had established.
All that was well and good, and I, like any newcomer to graffiti was happy to oblige, to respect the path laid before me by previous generations, and to do my best to be Juse One.
But I was 14 when I made that decision. I really was not prepared to commit to a lifetime of participation to anything, let alone something as all encompassing as an artist identity. I also didn’t really expect that I would be living and working as an artist. I’m from upstate New York. You don’t dream so audaciously where I come from, especially when you grow up poor. But I digress. The point being is that I chose a name when I was a teenager to join a subculture before I really knew anything about it. I did that because it was fun, and I loved doing graffiti.
And all of a sudden, I grew up. Graffiti grew up. The world changed drastically after the 90s. The time of graffiti magazines, disposable cameras, and watching the FX video on VHS are long, long gone. Sharing images is no longer done in physical spaces, but on social networks. Fame isn’t measured in conversations with other graffiti writers, but with clear metrics in publicly available statistics on social network profiles. And there are more videos about graffiti than ever before available instantly on YouTube.
Graffiti has become a culture full of fakers who think they are the realest to ever do it.
Suddenly, graffiti had become a business – a prepackaged identity for suburban youth who want to feel rebellious, a means for artists to have street cred by association or an edge when they enter new urban contemporary space, and eventually, just a ploy for wannabes to sound more interesting than they really are. Graffiti has become a culture full of fakers who think they are the realest to ever do it. And strangely enough, the more commercialized graffiti becomes, the more hardcore people try to be about those old rules we used to follow as kids. I mean, after all, authenticity is the currency by which one negotiates their relevance in graffiti, even when graffiti betrays its own values. It’s a sort of cultural schizophrenia enshrined in subcultural self-delusion. And once more, I digress.
I have struggled with the changes, both in the culture and its place in the world as well as with my own internal desires and dreams as an artist. As I’ve grown older, my priorities have changed drastically. They don’t align with the graffiti world, whatever that is now. My goals and artistic interests have much less to do with what other people using spray paint think about me, and much more to do with what kind of example I set for my children and what contribution I make to my community and to my chosen profession.
And so, with all this in mind, I have decided to retire my graffiti name, and to start over without pretense or posturing, without posing or placating, but with professional focus and a diligent praxis. I’ve decided that I don’t need to be anyone else but me, and the name I was given at birth by a mother who wanted nothing more than to raise a son who would grow up and be true to himself – that name is good enough for me.