Most graffiti artists tend to take pride in their chosen pseudonyms. In the world of public art, a recognizable tag is an identity, a signature, a symbol of the ownership (illegal, by way of aerosol) of a given space. The artist that paints the Ghost Bridge, however, is different. He says he’s never considered devising a nickname to sign his work with, claiming he’d rather let his ghostly creations be his sole calling card. In an artistic medium inherently defined by anonymity, Dr. Friday (the off-the-cuff nickname he picked for this piece) is even more spectral and elusive than most. And for someone with as profound distrust of the Corvallis Police Department as he has, it’s easy to see why.
For the unfamiliar, the Ghost Bridge is the informal title of the span of railroad tracks that connects Avery Park with Pioneer Park. The source of the name is obvious: half the bridge is covered in renderings of ghosts, some menacing, some friendly, some with top hats, some with monocles. Considering the word “graffiti” often conjures up images of criminals and hate speech, the ghost creations of Dr. Friday seem positively charming.
“Destructive graffiti—curse words, racial slurs, blatant drug references—are detrimental to our town,” Dr. Friday explained. His antipathy also extends to graffiti artists who only focus on putting up their little nom de plumes, calling such tags “burdensome eye-sores taking up what is otherwise space for art.
Tagging something like ‘Steve rules!’ is boring—the product of a feeble mind.”
Dr. Friday spoke fondly of the 1990s, reminiscing about “when Helen Berg was mayor and there was a graffiti wall near where the Renaissance now stands. It was always adorned with impressive murals.” He said he believes such a communal space for collaborative art is “an aspect of Corvallis that is slowly dying,” claiming that the move towards more purely name-based tags makes the city look cheap and rundown. “That’s why I love the Ghost Bridge,” he added. “I think it is one of the last holdouts of traditional Corvallis.”
Although steadfast in his opinions regarding what constitutes bad graffiti, Dr. Friday was surprisingly accommodating when it came to the topic of other artists modifying or improving his Ghost Bridge panels. “When I put the ghosts up, I like to leave a couple blank,” he said, describing how while the creation
of graffiti is private, its appreciation is public and communal. He expressed gratitude toward the anonymous artist who filled one of the clean-slate ghosts with bugs, saying it created a chilling and creepy effect. “I don’t believe that the ghosts are more important [than other art],” he said, going on to explain how even though he views himself as the “moderator” of the Ghost Bridge, he sees it as a shared space for artistic, personal, and political expression.
Of course, it is impossible to discuss graffiti without delving into the illegality of the act. Regarding the Corvallis Police Department, Dr. Friday was indignant and blunt. “The kind of things our local law enforcement focuses on are trivial: traffic violations, marijuana, open containers, loitering teens, and noise complaints. If this is all that the Corvallis police can find to do, why do they require a budget which exceeds $12 million?” He explained the hypocrisy of seeing tags praising the Juggalos, whom he said are regarded as a violent gang by the FBI, left untouched for months, while his pro-Palestine graffiti is often removed by the police within 48 hours. “I have found the law enforcement of Corvallis to be intimidating and untrustworthy,” he said.
While he hasn’t yet been harassed or detained for making his public art, Dr. Friday did share some personal experiences that have soured him towards the Corvallis Police Department. An early riser, he talked about being stopped and questioned on multiple occasions for no discernible reasons other than, as he estimated, “being young, bearded, and up before 8 a.m.” His displeasure with local law enforcement is obvious. “I enjoy walking slowly by police when they are talking to a pedestrian,” he said. “I often feel obligated to stand with my fellow citizens and watch over them, making sure the police don’t attempt to violate their rights.”
Dr. Friday lamented the current state of the Ghost Bridge, saying an influx of less respectable/artistic tags have sullied the overall aesthetic. He plans to do a white-wash of the space in the near future in hopes of recreating a pristine space for artistic collaboration. “I apologize to those whose art will be covered up,” he said, “but I hope they all will enjoy the blank canvas as much as I do.”
By Stuart White