Sunday, September 1, 2013

War or Warning Shot? On the Writing Over of Sebastian Coolidge's mural.

Graffiti artists are not immune to writing over others' murals. The Saint Pete Mural Revolution of 2010-2013 brought about a phase shift from signatures to art murals. It was not the result of any organization or self-anointed mural Czars. It sprang directly from the artists, and it was they who funded almost all the works. People like Christian Thomas, Stoic, Center, Acud Akut, Thirst, Artissin, many whose names I cannot mention for legal reasons, and Jennifer Kosharek, the latter being responsible for securing a significant stretch of wall space in the alley on the N side of the 600 block of Central. With the exception of The Morean Arts Center, the City and its institutions were slow to realize what was happening in their midst. To this day, the kind of partnerships that happen in other cities are largely absent. The Morean had a landmark show "Leave a Message" about street art which highlighted the local muralists and street art culture. They got a great mural up on 1st St. North. Duncan McClellan got one across from his shop by Acud Akut and Chris Center (and others). Zen Glass did one with Tes One and Bask. Then Woo passed away, and Derek Donnelly in a collaborative effort with practically everyone in the arts community painted the Woomorial, as it is called. In the middle of this was Kyle Hughes, also known as Sebastian Coolidge.

Once a graffiti artist, Coolidge's sparse, commercial and surreal style, design and colors proved popular in the city. His penchant for contriving controversy to generate publicity has paid off and he is presently doing well commercially. This week he is in Creative Loafing's "Under 25" listicle of up and coming local phenoms.

Mural by Sebastian Coolidge

This mural is in the N alley of Central Ave in the 500 block. Someone wrote over it the words "Ya Lie". It was sprayed with a Wal Mart non-fat cap black, and carefully disguising the user's signature style, which means it was another street artist. But look closer...the write-over was very carefully placed to minimize damage to the mural. Had it been three feet higher or lower and to the left, repairs would be prohibitive.

At the height of the corrosive controversy Coolidge created on the 600 block, when people were openly plotting against the property manager and his employee, I remember sitting in the back of a gallery (names witheld to protect the guilty) when I was informed that if Coolidge's mural was covered over (it later was), that "This means war" when I asked what that meant, I was informed that another artists' three murals would be written over in retaliation. They ended up holding a meeting at Blue Lucy in an attempt to get Kosharek fired, but failed to do so.

I think this is a warning shot, not an all-out war. The intent was not to irrepairably damage the work, but to serve notice. Whatever the intent, I hope it can be resolved in a less destructive manner.

Work by Sebastian Coolidge, writing by unknown.

It must be said that when Kyle/Sebastian was doing illegal graffiti, that he wrote over other's work. Somewhere in the dusty archives of the blog, I have pictures of it. I called the person he did it to to confirm my recollection of it. Karma is a bitch.

--- Luis

PS. I would love to interview the person who wrote over this mural -- anonymously. If interested, please contact me through e-mail or an intermediary. 



  1. That is a lie. She did not do it. For one, it's not her style of writing, and as others have remarked, had she done it, it would have been better and far more beautiful. She doesn't know how to be artless. I have my own short list of suspects, but am not saying a word, hoping this ends here.

  2. On the other hand, by every account I've heard, SC did write over a JK mural by painting a death's head over the face of the figure representing her youngest daughter, JK did nothing in retaliation, merely went back with her daughter ad repainted the face.