Catherine Tedford, the director of the Richard F. Brush Art Gallery at St. Lawrence University, curates the Street Art Graphics collection, undeniably one of the coolest resources in Artstor’s public collections. Here she shares the history of street stickers and of her amazing collection.
History of the collection and the Street Art Graphics digital archive
In the last thirty years, urban art has evolved dramatically from the spray-painted graffiti that peppered subway stations, back alleys, and train yards. Today, new forms of visual communication are created in public spaces, often attracting viewers in more contemplative and/or interactive ways. Street art stickers, or simply “stickers,” have emerged as a vehicle for self-expression and as an effective way to engage passersby. Stickers may be used to “tag” or claim a space and make it temporarily one’s own, to sell products or services, to announce events, to publicize blogs or other social media sites, or to offer social commentary and political critique. As one of the most democratic art forms, stickers can be created and distributed easily, quickly, cheaply, and widely. D.I.Y. artists create one-of-a-kind drawings or multiple stencils and screenprints on free USPS stickers or “Hello-My-Name-Is” labels. Other artists upload more elaborate designs to online sticker companies that mass produce hundreds or thousands of stickers at a time. A range of rhetorical strategies can be found in their work, from humor and charm to rebellion and resistance. Representing a diverse array of voices and perspectives, stickers offer a spirited “ground up” alternative to an often “top down” media-saturated environment.