According to WXPN, the Philadelphia mural that was commissioned for the cover of Kurt Vile’s Wakin On A Pretty Daze has been defaced and painted over by a local man who said that it was “attracting graffiti to the neighborhood.” The mural was created by renowned artist Steve “ESPO” Powers. According to Vile’s Facebook, they’re working on plans to have the mural redone and updated. Check out a documentary about how it was made and see what the mural used to look like below.
UPDATE: The man who painted over the mural has been identified as DJ and longtime Philadelphia resident Lee Mayjahs, according to Metro. Local reporter Leah Kauffman posted an interview on her Facebook page earlier today where she characterized him as “not well” and says that he’s offering to pay Powers to restore the mural. Said Mayjahs:
“I got home and started doing research on my computer. I can’t believe what I had done ad I wrote a letter to Kurt Vile apologizing. And I wrote a letter to the artist Espo apologizing, telling them that I would pay Espo to come down and repaint it. I also wrote a letter to the mural arts apologizing. … Even though it wasn’t official I’m sorry for everything I did. I would do whatever I could do to make it right. I really am sorry. I don’t know what I was doing. I literally lost my mind and took it out which was the dumbest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life.”
UPDATE 2: Mural artist Stephen “ESPO” Powers has issued a statement about the defacing on his Tumblr. He gives a brief history of graffiti writing in Philadelphia and says he forgives Mayjahs for painting over the mural. Here is the full statement:
Graffiti? Who cares? Everybody, apparently. Some people love it enough to donate time and resources to painting it. Some people hate it enough to donate time and resources to painting over it. Really the graffiti writer and the buffman (and it’s always a man) are more or less the same. They both make a mark on a wall that doesn’t belong to them, they don’t make it better or worse, just different. Writers are winning in that theirs is the mark of humanity that says “I’m here.” The buffers are losing because theirs is the folly of humanity—to try and sweep waves off the beach.
Graffiti in Philadelphia hasn’t changed much in 40 years, but the attitude of the public toward graffiti has changed in several ways since the halcyon days of Cornbread. First everybody loved it, then everybody got tired of it, then Mr. Blint and Razz and the class of 1980 made it cool again. By 1984, it was hated enough to get a guy who promised to get rid of it elected mayor. And that hate persisted all the way until after the National Guard came to Kensington and buffed walls in the run up to the Democratic National Convention—I think the entire city got buffed once and for all. And once graffiti was gone, people got nostalgic for it, and now in 2014 people like it again. The Mural Arts program has gotten fewer and fewer complaints about it over the years, and now my application of a medium to a surface, once hated, is now appreciated. Progress!
Jane Golden has been watching this change in attitudes as long as I have, and we’ve talked it through. In the 30 years since the Anti-Graffiti Network started, people have come to understand that graffiti is no big deal. All the walls got clean and it’s still easy to cop heroin and die in the street, proving the “broken windows” theory is broken.
On saturday a guy named Lee, misguided about graffiti and out of his mind, buffed the wall ICY SIGNS painted for Kurt Vile’s Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze record. Misguided because he thought our commissioned album design was responsible for the graffiti in the neighborhood. Out of his mind because he was using a crappy 1/4 inch nap roller and interior paint. ICY SIGNS recommends 3/4 inch nap and KILZ exterior primer/sealer.
Lee got caught mid-buff, and was washed out by a wave of internet indignation that was hilarious to me and every other writer I know, past and present. None of us can believe anybody gives a care about spraypaint on a wall. As I’ve been telling the buffman since the 80s, graffiti isn’t permanent—the sun is going to take care of it, eventually, and sooner than you think. So, buffman, go solve a real problem, how about shutting down the open air drug market a mile away? Too hard? Tell me about it, you know how long it took me to get a good hand style?
When we first painted the wall, we left the tags that were already on the wall when we started. I thought they were kids from the neighborhood and I wanted to leave them up and make them part of the design. I painted the lower half of the wall as fast and as fun as I could, with the same joy as I painted graffiti when I was 17 and free as I will ever be. Turns out the kids were from Baltimore, but a few Philadelphians snuck prints onto the wall and consequently onto Kurt’s album and in doing so returned graffiti to its rightful place on the Philadelphia cultural landscape, dead center where it doesn’t belong.
We’ll fix the wall, it will be better than it was in the first place (it’s ALWAYS better the second time). Lee the buffman is retired, now he’s Lee Major Crimes Unit. We forgive Lee, we don’t want anybody in trouble for painting a wall. And graffiti will come and go as it has since the caves in Lascaux. Let’s all go back to not caring too much either way.
I spent the weekend finishing the painting for our next print, which of course speaks implicitly and explicitly to the situation at hand, you know how I do. We are taking orders for this 24″ x 24″ hand pulled screen print on 334 gram Coventry Rag paper. It will be a signed and numbered edition of 50 in black and coral (or Chanel peach, whatever looks better). It’s $200 plus shipping, email firstname.lastname@example.org with your location and we’ll send a Paypal invoice. Proceeds go to spray paint and loosies from the corner store on Front Street, buy now, we’ll ship on July 14. Oh the painting is on hold, but thanks for asking.
[Top photo via Conrad Benner.]