Ann Knickerbocker
We were driving through small villages in south-western Germany. The winter days were unusually mild, and mists hung over orchards, newly-ploughed fields, and distant mountains. Others had found the Black Forest (Schwarzwald) before us. We found ourselves uninterested in spa towns and instead we got our rear tires stuck, spinning, in the ice outside a closed resort, a place on the plateau where people come to hike in summer sunshine. The winter was beautiful there. We found small castles, dense forests, the scattered shelters built long ago for walkers. We saw that the landscape invited notions of dragons. We read the stories of the Brothers Grimm in the evenings, fairy tales filled with foreboding, regrets and terrible deaths.

But I couldn’t paint dragons. Once painted, they were softened, quiet, curled in the corner. Jacques Derrida wrote that “Monsters cannot be announced. One cannot say: 'Here are our monsters,' without immediately turning the monsters into pets.” And yet, the dragon is there. The dragon underlies it all. Once our time in the mountains and orchards and vineyards was over, we came into big European cities. The monuments and public buildings were imposing and yet, in so many places, the base, the plaques, even hand-carved stone walls were disfigured by graffiti. And graffiti became, for me, the tangible evidence of the modern dragon. Like the dragon, the tagger is apart, impulsive, destructive, angry, wanting, always wanting.... The destructive act announces a presence, a presence that is just as foreboding as those sudden blows in fairy tales. The taggers’ writing is eventually covered by a layer of paint that doesn’t quite match, and then ... a new graffiti signature comes to cover the covering.

I have painted imagined walls: murals, ads pasted up, marbled spaces, and then imagined hand-painted graffiti overlying each wall, or paint covering the graffiti covered by new graffiti. What if graffiti were hand-painted? By understanding the dragon, by painting this incarnation of the dragon, I somehow came into a living, breathing response to the terrors of death.