Siouxland Stories: Beautifying red-tagged relics of the past

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(KCAU) — When you think of graffiti, you might not think of pre-planned, larger-than-life works of art. It’s often letters or crude pictures, sprayed haphazardly on the side of an old building or train, but Jessica Hammond, known as ‘Brutal Doodles’ in the art world, is taking the legal route, beautifying the old Grandview Park water towers.

“One of the biggest, coolest things about doing the graffiti pieces up here is covering up a lot of the chaos that exists on the water tower,” said Hammond. “There’s a lot of profanity, a lot of immaturity. Kids that just want to come up here with a Sharpie and just write on the wall. Which doesn’t look good.”

These water towers are more than 100 years old, and for the past few years, the city gave permission for artists to paint there, specifically ahead of the 4th of July holiday.

“The tradition was that every year before Saturday in the Park, they would come up and add new pieces and clean it up and make it look really nice before Saturday in the Park,” said Hammond.

But the writing is on the wall. And these old concrete vessels will be reduced to rubble soon. Still, Jessica said she felt moved to cover up the ugly phrases with a fresh coat of creative paint.

“I think it’s only right to cover as much of it up as I can so the water towers can go out in style. The cool thing about knowing that it’s temporary is there’s no pressure to be perfect. I’m just out here practicing,” said Hammond.

Practicing her out-of-this-world style, with a new medium on a unique, temporary canvas.

“I’ve always been fascinated with outer space. And around last year, I started to hone in this style that I’m doing aliens and spacemen and ‘Space Steve’. I really like incorporating things that I like into my art so it’s an extension of myself,” said Hammond.

“I’m really not that used to the spray painting yet, that’s why I have all these drips that appear. It’s not really intentional but I think it looks cool anyway. If I had special caps, I could do smaller details. But all I have available to me is the home depot special,” said Hammond.

Because the wall is already covered with decades of old paint and crumbling concrete, creating art on top of the offensive graffiti is complicated.

“There was a big old phrase across this whole part. So what I started with was filling in the background, just to get it all covered up. And I knew I was going to have to make it a long piece since it was a long-phrase. So I was like well, I’ll just draw her laying down, so I had my friend pose for me. So I kind of sketched it out on the wall with white paint, and then I went through and filled in all the colors.”

In the future, Jessica said she hopes the city allows graffiti artists the same liberty.

“I would hope that when the new towers are built, however long that takes, maybe a couple of years that they would open it up for people to paint again. I think that’s a really cool thing that’s available to us in Sioux City because if people have a place to go, where they can paint, they’re going to be less likely to go around tagging, vandalizing things,” Hammond said.

So until Space Steve and Jessica’s other creations come tumbling down, they’ll stand a short-term reminder to visitors of the park to keep the community clean and beautified.

“I was actually blown away by how much attention I got for this. Because this was just something fun that I wanted to do with my buddies. I’m not getting paid for it. I invested all the money in the paint. It was really cool how much love I got from the community just for coming out here and having fun with my friends,” said Hammond.

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