With a postcard replica and classic Maine lighthouse-as-spraycan motif, graffiti art has never been less offensive than now. The Phoenix caught up with "Turt McGirt," one of the artists who recently repainted the Asylum's mural wall, to discuss street art ethics, accountability, and "the man."
HOW DID THE MURAL ARTISTS GET CHOSEN? The city's graffiti artists — graffiti writers — have been painting it for the last 15 years. You get to a certain skill level, and they kinda invite you on.
THEY BEING THE ASYLUM? No, the graffiti writers who orchestrate the whole thing.
COOL. SO IT'S THE SAME TEAM THAT DOES IT ANNUALLY? For the most part. There's a lot of guys who are really good and have proven themselves over the years and they obviously stay on. It kinda rotates a little bit. Somebody might have done a lot of work in the past year, and they'll come on . . .
THE MAINE POSTCARD MOTIF IS INTERESTING, AND IT'S A PRETTY GOOD JOKE, TOO. YOU'RE MARRYING THE BLANDEST, MOST COMMERCIALIZED, MOST MASS-PRODUCED LOCAL ART MOTIF WITH STREET ART, SO IT'S ESTABLISHMENT-VERSUS-UNDERCOVER, BUT IT ALSO MADE ME THINK HOW RADICALLY DIFFERENT THOSE PROCESSES ARE. That's a cool way to think about it. The idea came from Mike Rich — I know he doesn't mind me giving his name 'cause . . . he's the man — but he came up with the idea. Usually we sit down and talk about a theme, try to figure out something. He showed up to the meeting with this postcard and was like, "This is the idea, bam!"
I KNOW MANY STREET ARTISTS HAVE A FUZZY RELATIONSHIP TO PUBLIC APPRECIATION. NOT TO MAKE YOU THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE OTHER ARTISTS, BUT HOW IMPORTANT IS RECOGNITION TO YOU? Speaking personally — it's not the reason why I do this, but it'd be great! Sometimes (I) think about how much hard-earned money I put into doing these projects and painting these things. It'd be great to have some recognition from the city, especially when you see the other end of that . . .
HOW HAS RECEPTION BEEN FOR THE MURAL? It's been really great. A lot of positive feedback. I personally take it with a grain of salt because other people's opinions only mean so much. If it's something I put a lot of work into and I like it, the whole city could hate it. I'm proud of what me and my friends are able to accomplish more than anything.
YOU MENTIONED (IN AN E-MAIL TO THE PHOENIX) THAT YOU'VE EXPERIENCED SOME MISREPRESENTATION IN THE PRESS. THAT PART OF THE DEAL, ISN'T IT? (Laughs) Yeah, exactly. But what happens sometimes is that people just kinda fill in for you. They're not really appointed by anyone; people just speak up. And I don't blame them — it's gonna happen — but it's not coming from us, from the people who actually did (the work). You know, we're an elusive bunch, so I completely get it. But sometimes it sucks.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE MURAL? Oh, that's a tough one. I think just stepping back and looking what we're able to do as a group. Meeting up and working hard with my friends on this one thing that the city is enjoying and we can donate to the place we all love. The memories, I guess, is my favorite part.