Monday, March 3, 2008

Street Art, Defiled

Has The Splasher made a trip to Salvador?

Has he left his home in New York to enjoy a holiday in the tropics, and destroy some graffiti while he is here? Did he, in fact, ruin the piece that I painted yesterday?

Actually, I don't think it was The Splasher at all, I think it was André, the self-described alcoholic (I go to bed drunk, I wake up drunk!) who was my best friend and biggest fan yesterday as I was painting. His basement apartment/studio faces the wall that I was painting, and he wasn't there when I started.

When he showed up, the first thing he said to me was Bacana! which means 'great' or 'awesome' in Portuguese, and he proceeded to be super friendly and appreciative of the work I was doing. He offered me water, and gave me a crate to stand on to paint higher up than I could reach.

As time went on, he started to get kind of erratic- running out with a brush of his own and dabbing paint on the 'Jesus Loves You' just to the right of my mural. He got a little upset when I painted my name 'Kuza' underneath- "Hold on a second! That's the Chinese Mafia. That's serious stuff." I told him he was thinking of the Yakuza, and that they are in fact Japanese. And that wasn't what I was writing. He came up and tapped me on the back a couple times to make some kind of comment, then changed his mind. "Never mind. Keep going." At one point he asked me what the moth signified, and I gave him a vague answer because that's basically all I had for him. Nothing real heavy going on there.

When I left him he had my email and phone number and told me he would call me. Heaped me with praise and seemed eager to continue the friendship.

When I returned the next morning with Lucas in tow (he loves to see my paintings, he truly is my biggest fan), I noticed as I was approaching that something was wrong. The piece had been splashed with blue paint, as had a second bichinho I had painted and a pichação tag that I'd let some guy walking by paint with my cans.

André was there. "O Marcos," he says, "I left some paint sitting outside my door and someone ruined your painting. I think it must have been this Jesus lover who painted this wall here." The painting, André, that you were dabbing at yesterday as I was working on this one?

I knew immediately that it was him that had done it. I was so angry that I left without taking any photos, with barely a word to the idiot who had been so friendly the day before.

After I dropped Lucas off at school, I went back. I wanted pictures for this blog, if nothing else. As I was taking them, André started in again. "I'm going to talk to the night watchman, because I came home drunk last night and someone keeps painting this stuff around here..."

"You sure you don't know who painted this?" I asked, to his back, as he was seated at his easel working on a painting of his own.


"Because I think you did it."

"No, no way, never. I would never do something..."

You have to imagine his voice trailing off as walk away. I can't stand confrontation, and just telling him that I thought he was the culprit was about as much as I could handle.

When I looked more carefully at the photos, I noticed something else- he hadn't just thrown paint on the murals, he'd actually attacked two of them, pretty viciously to judge by the chunks of concrete that had been dislodged from the wall.

The funny thing is that I was drawn to painting in this place specifically. There are lots of available white walls within walking distance of my house where many more people are likely to see my work, but I'd set my sights on this spot, so I guess I was asking for it.

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