The wrong kind of Painted Desert

Well, time to drag out the ol’ soapbox again.

I imagine that a lot of you have seen the stories that have been surfacing about the faces and other art painted on rocks and cliffs at several different national parks out in the western U.S.

One shows a blue-haired woman, almost Dali-esque, on the edge of a precipice overlooking a canyon, and another one shows a man with a snake protruding out of his mouth.

All of the paintings are signed with the name @creepytings. Evidently, the photos found their way onto social media, where they spread like the proverbial wildfire. And the National Park Service, needless to say, is NOT happy.

The NPS and other authorities launched an investigation after the photo appeared, and a few days ago, there was an announcement that a name had been matched to the alleged artist.

Technique-wise, granted, some of the artwork is not bad – definitely not your run-of-the-mill graffiti. But, people, a natural or cultural monument is really NOT a good place to try to show that you’re trying to become the next Banksy. And it has been noted, more than once, that some of America’s national parklands also have deep spiritual and cultural relevance to Native American tribes.

So in that context, the art comes across as pretty tacky. Not to mention illegal – this falls squarely into the category of vandalism.

Besides the sheer tackiness, there’s the environmental cost to consider. You also have to remember that the paint might eat into the rocks, or the paint chemicals could wash away into the nearby vegetation. There have been a few articles circulating about what kinds of tools and processes are needed to get paint off of rocks. And I know from memories of high school art class that once paint has dried, it takes some serious elbow grease to get it off.

I mentioned in an earlier post that on a recent hike in South Mountain Reservation, I’d noted, with some dismay, that someone had sprayed some graffiti all over Turtle Back Rock. And it’s not unusual to see graffiti all over the cliff face on the Palisades, especially around the lookouts. Those of us who come to state and national parks to drink in the natural splendor – we don’t want to see paint all over the rocks. It sticks out like a sore thumb.

Categories: Ecology, History, Other | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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