CSUN alumnus tags campus in USU Beyond the Tag event

With fluid strokes of a spray paint can, CSUN alumnus Alexander D.C.D. Smith showed off his spray painting skills during the University Student Unions Beyond the Tag event, highlighting legal forms of graffiti art.

Beyond the Tag was designed to educate students on how graffiti is not only illegal tagging, but how it is also an art form, said Jessica Balfour, 24, senior marketing major and USU event assistant in charge of art events.

“I’ve always just been a fan of art in general and I think there’s a lot of a misconception about ‘graffiti,’” Balfour said.  “A lot of people think it’s just tagging on the wall or writing under freeways, but it’s not.”

To highlight graffiti as art, the USU utilized Plaza Del Sol and had numerous forms of entertainment for students.

There was a live art wall, a canvas for students to express their artistic side, bandannas to paint with stencils and spin art, where students pour paint on spinning vinyl records. Live entertainment was on hand as well.

CSUN’s poetry slam team, recent winners of the regional Association of College Unions International competition performed pieces for the crowd.

Art work on display was provided by Off the Wall, a non-profit organization. They started a year ago to get students away from tagging on walls, to move their art onto different types of canvases, keeping them out of trouble and promoting the art form.

“This event (…) came about for a couple of reasons,” Balfour said.  “We wanted to do something that encompassed some art on campus. Something  where students could create art, see art, learn about art and not just at a gallery.  Something that’s very interactive.”

The founder of Off the Wall, Maura McCarthy, was inspired by her daughter Caila. Her daughter would point out graffiti her friends painted while she and McCarthy were driving on the freeway.  She once was caught tagging and had to remove her graffiti.

Another painter, Francisco Santiago, 20,  said what Off the Wall is doing is great.

“Promoting this, promoting people to paint on something– I respect that as a painter and as an artist,” said the kinesiology major.  “I really like this.”

The painting that Smith worked on throughout the day was of a dragon that was inspired by his love of Asian art.

It stood six feet tall and 12 feet wide and was painted on three wood boards that were joined together.

“Asian art in general is a big influence in my art,” Smith said.  “I draw inspiration from a lot of different things.  Everything is inspirational to me.”

Smith, whose paint was donated by Graphaids, said he likes cultural things and finding a deeper meanings.

“A koi fish turns into a dragon,” said Smith, when describing why he chose to paint a dragon.

“It has the courage and drive,” he added. “The koi fish has to swim upstream and jump over the waterfall and when it does that it turns into the dragon.  There is something about a dragon that that says courage and strength, ambition and hardworking,  all those things that I believe I am.”

Smith said he was diagnosed with cancer at the base of his spine when he was 20-years-old.

He said he has been in remission for the last six years, but that is when his passion for art became his main drive.

“I’ve just been doing what I know I need to do,” said Smith, in regards to his cancer.  “I don’t think I would have the drive I have now.  Life is too short.”