Burlington Graffiti

For years, the Burlington landscape has been covered with two names: SENT and TANK, the aliases of the two most prolific graffiti writers in Burlington.

Their names, along with that of their crew, APB, can be seen representing on almost every block in Burlington. What many people don’t know, however, is that these two underground artists produce more than just an insane amount of tags (or a quickly written graffiti name on walls, signs, ect…). They also spend days creating fantastically intricate pieces, also called burners, which are the large murals which make up the more artistic aspect of graffiti culture.

These pieces, hidden all across Burlington, Winooski, Essex Junction, and other surrounding areas, are a major contribution to the art scene in the Burlington area. Unfortunately, due to the illegality of their art, these artist’s pieces are so well hidden that the average person would never run across them, just as the average policeman would never be able to find Sent or Tank at work.

Vermont Cynic: How many times have you been arrested for writing graffiti?Sent: I’ve never been arrested, and I’m trying to keep it that way.

VC: Is the fact that graffiti is illegal a reason why people start writing?Sent: That’s a part of it. But I think there is a common misconception that graffiti is all about vandalism and destruction. People should understand that there are other parts. Getting your name up but yet still being unknown, you’re not out there writing your real name. It {graffiti} started because people took control when they didn’t have a lot of control in their life. Originally it was started by some kid who was on a paper route or something, and he just started leaving his mark, as something he could do and be known. It’s a way to take control of your artistic ability in a certain way. You control your style, but also your environment, be it under a bridge or hanging over an interstate overpass. You have to be able to control yourself and your skills in an uncontrollable environment.

VC: How do you think that tagging and pieces relate to traditional interpretations of what is art?Sent: I think graffiti is its own personal subculture, which has certain guidelines and mediums. It’s different then when someone paints for art, because they’re not just trying to get their name out there, there’s other reasons for it.Tank: But its becoming much more mainstream. People are beginning to realize in the last ten years, that graffiti can be used as advertisement. In the seventies, nobody used graffiti as a way to advertise. It’s becoming more and more mainstream.

VC: Why do you write graffiti?Tank: Once you’ve written for a while, it’s like a lifestyle. If you’re a graffiti writer, when your walking around you always have a marker in your pocket for tags, but you can spend six hours on a piece. There’s bombing and then there’s pieces.Sent: Its also a way to make art without trying to make money, it’s a way to make art without any other issues involved.Tank: It’s also a rush. You get a big rush from painting out in the open. It gets you high, like some people like to jump out of planes and s*&t. But it’s free.

VC: What is the Graf scene in Burlington like?Tank: It’s pretty small, everyone sort of knows each other. There are individual crews though, but everyone knows who everyone is.

VC: Who are some of the older writers in Burlington?Tank: When we first started, there were some older guys, like Mech. Jekel and kast started around the same time as us. We really were kinda the first crew to get motivated and put our name out there, and do different things. We would always be going out to different places, different trains and downtown. It just ended up Burlington had more spots than others. Now you see the younger kids being influenced by the scene. There’s some newer artists coming up who are getting really good too, like Digz and Tooth.

VC: What type of places do you write graffiti?Tank: Places where its gonna stay the longest. It’s more of a selective process of where you are and what you have. We never go out and tag someone’s house, or car. We look for public property. We don’t go out destroying private propertySent: Well, sometimes [email protected]#t happens. You don’t go out to write on someone’s house, but if I get drunk or something, anything could happen.Tank: We also do a lot of trains, but you’re only gonna write a piece on a train, because you know you may not see it again. If I do a train, I’m going to spend a long time on it.Sent: A train is like a big wall that rolls somewhere, it could be 600 miles away tomorrow. It’s just a big rusted piece of rolling steel. If you paint on an old boxcar, and not over the serial numbers, it may stay there.Tank: It’s also not just a wall, you have to write over bars, and handles. Graffiti goes well on a medium such as a freight train.

VC: Do you think that someone can be a graffiti artist if they only write tags?Tank: yeah sure, as long as they’re as good as they can be, and they get their name out everywhere.Sent: I agree, but they’re missing out on a big part of it. Half of it is doing pieces with paint, spending time on some sort of project.

VC: When do you go out to write? Tank: You’re always in that mindstate.Sent: I’ll specifically go out to work on a piece for six hours, but whenever I leave my house I’m going out to tag. There are two parts to it. You always tag, but you have to go out and spend a long time to do a piece.

VC: Why would someone write graffiti?Sent: When they see other graffiti out there, and they choose to try it out. It’s not for everybody. But you have to see it around to be exposed to it. I would be different if I grew up in Brooklyn, just as if I grew up in some farm in Nebraska.Tank: It’s free. You can steal all your supplies. For Kids who can’t afford to go snowboarding, there’s no investment.