Vandalism becomes art in photography exhibit

September 03, 2009|By JULIE E. GREENE

Is it vandalism or art? Or both?

Photographer Sterling "Rip" Smith's exhibit of graffiti images from a Massachusetts quarry opens this week at the Contemporary School of the Arts & Gallery in downtown Hagerstown.

"In one sense, it's a form of vandalism, of course. But I was struck by a couple things I saw there," said Smith, 66, who lives in Martinsburg, W.Va. Smith said he saw at least two graffiti memorials at the quarry, including one for a graffiti artist's grandfather.

"People are out there communicating things other than just trying to make a mess," Smith said. "I tried to capture a little of that and some of the designs of color."


Smith was visiting a friend in Braintree, Mass., when they drove by this old quarry. Much of the quarry had been filled in with dirt. Grass had grown on top, so there were acres of flat ground surrounded by rugged rock walls.

When he first visited the quarry in June 2008, Smith thought he might get some interesting pictures of rocks. Then he found the graffiti.

He returned to the quarry in July 2009 to take more photos, resulting in the "21st Century Hieroglyphics" exhibit that features 15 poster-sized images of the graffiti he found.

Since retiring in May 2008 as training director for Mid-Atlantic ProTel in Martinsburg, Smith said he's stepped up his photographic activities.

The bulk of his photography has been architectural images, but Smith is exploring new photographic subjects.

Smith will be at an opening reception this Saturday evening for the exhibit at the gallery.

If you go ...

WHAT: "21st Century Hieroglyphics" photo exhibit

WHEN: Opening reception is 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 5. The exhibit will be on display into October. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. weekdays and 1 to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

WHERE: Contemporary School of the Arts & Gallery, 4 W. Franklin St., downtown Hagerstown

COST: Free admission

CONTACT: Call the gallery at 301-791-6191 or e-mail Ron Lytle at .

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