Sunday, May 13, 2012

mindful delinquency,or, "it's the light, dummy!"

"We're trying to think how to describe what exactly you just did to the dummy light," someone said to me. Another suggested the second line as a post title, so there it is. Whatever you call it, from 'unauthorized refurbishment' to 'guerrilla painting', it's done now, in broad daylight and while wearing an orange safety vest, which appeared to legitimize my presence.
After several years of regarding the Beacon dummy light's increasingly shabby concrete base (mostly just chipped, peeling & sun-faded paint), it really looked like it could use a sprucing-up. I know my paintings indicate my affection for aged surfaces, but this was just deteriorated. As I recently posted, I'd made a painting (and then a shirt) OF the light in '09, but it was a friend who casually suggested I repaint IT, as it is. I wanted to execute the plan, but wondered whether to seek city approval or just go ahead and do it. Finally I borrowed a sander, bought the paint and set up traffic cones, hoping my respectful and accurate paint job would smooth away doubts.
To clarify, it isn't that I have any fundamental attachment to the dummy light. I'm not even one of the many people who drive by it several times a day, nor did I grow up here. When I first saw it upon my arrival in town, I liked it because I like old things with history. Then, because it wasn't operational, the city shrouded it in black plastic until they got it working again, I think due to the mayor's efforts to preserve the historic, yet humble, structure. It stands alone in the middle of an active, though not busy, intersection. I liked the idea of repainting it as a subtle means of drawing appreciative attention to the light, as a mild kind of performance art, and, hopefully, as a small gift to Beacon.

I began shyly, which was ridiculous considering I was in the middle of the street with people walking by and cars constantly turning around me. Once I got absorbed in painting, I lost the self-consciousness and smiled and nodded at passersby. After the positive comments started trickling in (many shouted from open car windows), I began to relax. A couple friends gave me donations towards the 'refurbishment', and the paint store owner contributed a can in support. When the councilman stopped by and took my picture, I knew it'd be okay. I believe this means I am not a true rebel. But I don't really position myself as such. I just enjoy the occasional gentle subversion.


  1. Thank you Erica for your project.
    I just moved here and live across the dummy light. I immediately noticed and liked it. Then a friend told me about its name - and now I saw it freshly painted. Unfortunately I missed your performance / presence.

  2. I drove past this only this morning on the way to the train station, for a dreary day of work in that city South of us. It was a bright and cheery thing to see out the window, the shiny bright light with its new delightful paint job. What happiness you make with your brush!