OCEANSIDE — When the average person hears the term “street art,” graffiti and murals are some of the first few things that come to mind.
According to Jim Daichendt, there is a difference between street art and graffiti.
While graffiti is about writing letters or words with spray paint and markers, Daichendt said, “street art involves every media that you would see in art school.”
Street art is much more accessible to the public while graffiti is usually meant for a different kind of subculture and at times difficult to read, he said.
Daichendt is a professor of art history and dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at Point Loma Nazarene University. He has spent most of his academic career studying art, having earned his doctorate in arts research from Columbia University, a master’s degree in Arts in Education from Harvard University and art education from Boston University.
He is also the author of five books, including a book on Shepard Fairey, a graphic artist who founded OBEY Clothing.
Daichendt first became interested in street art years ago thanks to some of his students, which eventually led him to investigate street art in Los Angeles “from an academic perspective.”
Daichendt is the curator of an exhibit currently on display in the Oceanside Museum of Art. Called “Sidewalk Activism,” the exhibit showcases various forms of street art. Daichendt was asked by the museum to curate the exhibit, and worked with him to settle on a theme of activism for the show.
“It specifically looks at how street and or graffiti artists approach issues of importance to them,” Daichendt said.
Street art can be political, but it can also speak on environmental and social issues as well. For Daichendt, putting art in any public sphere is a political act.
“My voice is important, and I want to say something,” he said.
The exhibit’s art is separated into three different categories: emotion and beauty, humor and manipulation of media.
Artists with pieces who fall under manipulation of media use lots of imagery found in pop culture, making it familiar to visitors and easier for them to engage with.
“We’re much more comfortable looking at things we’ve seen,” Daichendt said.
Pieces that fall under humor help viewers of the art to let their guard down and laugh at something they may not expect. Daichendt compared this category to when presidential candidates go on late-night comedy shows and poke fun at themselves.
In the emotion and beauty category, artwork helps viewers to engage in issues and take them more seriously.
Katie Ruiz is an Oceanside-based artist with two pieces in the exhibit in the emotion and beauty category.
Ruiz is a painter and yarn and fiber artist. She began as an oil painter who painted people under blankets and eventually expanded her use of mediums to include yarn and fiber as well.
“I wanted to find a way to abstract the form and also to bring in my culture into it as a Mexican American woman,” Ruiz said.
While attending graduate school at the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture, she began painting people standing under Mexican blankets, which included colorful patterns and different textiles.
Later, Ruiz picked up yarn bombing, a type of street art that uses knitted or crocheted yarn or fiber.
Ruiz even created her own kind of yarn bombing that she calls “pom-pom bombing.”
“Instead of yarn bombing which is traditional crochet, pom-pom bombing is where you make a ton of pom-poms or poof balls out of yarn,” Ruiz said.
Then, those pom-poms are strung up in trees and other outdoor fixtures.
According to Ruiz, she is working on a pom-pom bomb project to celebrate Pride in June.
“We’re going to tie them all around the trees in Oceanside for Pride in June, and we’re also going to create a huge large-scale rainbow flag coming down the façade of the museum,” she said.
Ruiz is working with the LGBTQ community and the Women’s Resource Center on the project. She said they are currently looking for donations of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple yarn. Ruiz is also willing to teach any group that wants to make pom-poms for the project how to do it and said a station to make pom-poms will be at the museum as well.
Ruiz also makes sculptures using yarn and fiber “based in feminism and protest art.” She has two yarn and rope sculpture pieces in the exhibit, both of which were created with the disappearance of women, specifically black women, in mind.
One of those pieces is called “Silent Warrior.”
“It is an ode to those women and all women,” Ruiz said.
Daichendt said Ruiz’s use of unusual material adds a softness to it.
“It’s guerilla art, it’s not supposed to be there, but there’s a softness there that’s really lovely and so different from spray paint,” he said.
Ruiz said she has only had positive experiences with her use of pom-poms.
“People are very happy to see pom-poms on the street and stapled around the city,” she said.
Ruiz hopes that more people will begin to view textile art as fine art.
“The nature of weaving and textiles is a craft and it’s always not been considered fine art, so part of this movement is also to turn textile art into fine art,” she said.
Both Ruiz and Daichendt believe street art is “the people’s art.”
“Art has always for centuries and centuries offered beauty, offered narrative, offered an outlet for people,” Ruiz said. “I think street art is a really exciting thing that is happening right now all over the country if not all over the world, and street art to me is by the people, for the people.”
The exhibit itself is something to behold, according to the curator.
“It’s a unique experience that you have to see in person,” Daichendt said. “Street art is the art of the people because it meets us where we are.”
The exhibit will remain on display in the Oceanside Museum of Art until June 21.
Samantha Nelson covers Oceanside, Camp Pendleton and the decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. She earned her journalism degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, and has previously reported for The Athens Messenger in Athens, Ohio, and USA Today in McLean, Virginia. Follow her on Twitter: @samm1son