Ghost Writers

Cleveland’s graffiti artists are plenty daring, but are they any good?

Ghost Writers

Page 7 of 8

A Surviving Relic

You won't find much by Shrug these days, but he and a partner were once among the most visible graffiti artists in town, known collectively as the Optic Boom crew. Two decades ago, they were among the first to make their mark on the Salt Mine Wall, writing Optic Boom Vs. Godzilla in huge, rolled-on letters. But fat letters were never the focus of their work; instead they favored pictures that commented on life in a city where the money was running out. Shrug would paint sad faces, goofy airplanes and helicopters, bicycles, and puppy dogs, and pencils sharpened down till all that remained were little stubs. It was as if the sad faces reflected the mood of the city, as the Browns and the Tribe lost again, and factories closed one after another.

But it's not all gloom and doom. Shrug would also paint pictures that seemed to indicate that culture would help us survive — like it was the life force in a beaten-down town. We found the above piece by him in simple black and white along the railroad tracks on Train Ave. Just two arms reaching up from the ground, holding old-school boomboxes high above. The body seems to be underground, being eaten by the worms you can see painted at the base of the wall. But the spirit remains strong enough to hold the music up to the sky. And that's how it is in the rock & roll capital. As long as we've got something to believe in, we will endure.

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