UPDATE 2: Steve Powers has posted his reaction to this whole situation. Definitely read the whole thing. Very reasonable and wise position overall, and while I appreciate Steve’s perspective which is obviously important to this issue, I disagree with him on one major point: He seems to undervalue the love that Fishtown residents and visitors have for his mural. He sees everything as ephemeral, and so it is, but we can still mourn the loss of an artwork, particularly when it is so well-loved and it is lost (at least until repaired) in such a disappointing manner. But this is something Steve and I have disagreed about before and I’m sure will disagree about in the future…
UPDATE: Leah Kauffman has confirmed that Lee Mayjahs did make a comment on PhillyMag.com as “Dumb Buffer,” and also conducted a brief interview with him.
In 2012, Steve Powers painted a mural for Kurt Vile in the Philadelphia neighborhood of Fishtown. A photo of the mural eventually became the album art for Kurt Vile’s Walking on a Pretty Daze. This week in Philadelphia, a vigilante buffman took it upon himself to paint over part of that mural, and only stopping once he was caught in the act by Instagram user @dasheikee. According to @dasheikee, the buffman did not have the property owner’s permission and was not employed by the city, but he decided to paint over the mural because “He claimed it attracted graffiti to the neighborhood!”
The claim about this mural attracting graffiti is a bit silly in my opinion. Fishtown is basically like Philadelphia’s Williamsburg or Bushwick, so that would be like saying that eliminating The Bushwick Collective would end graffiti in Bushwick. Graffiti was there before The Bushwick Collective and it will be there afterwards, because of the people who like to live or spend time in Bushwick. Besides, many people in Fishtown appreciate street art, graffiti and murals. I have to assume that the location of the mural was selected because Powers and Vile thought that the existing residents would like piece, and they do. If anything, if this wall weren’t going to be repaired, the mediocre buff job would probably have led to illegal graffiti being painted right there. As it was, nobody was going to paint over Steve’s work.
Today, it surfaced that the buffman is Philly DJ Lee Mayjahs. He’s posted a comment on PhillyMag.com as “Dumb Buffer” owning up to his mistake and making a pretty nice heartfelt apology. It’s worth reading the entire comment.
I’ll admit that when this mural first went up, I wasn’t a huge fan. I saw it primarily as an advertisement masquerading as a mural, but the fact is that the mural has become an iconic addition to Fishtown, so even I’m disappointed to see this happen. Luckily, plans are already in the works to repair (and update) the wall.
It’s cool to see how a community rallied, largely online, to protect this mural and mourn its partial destruction. There is a very obvious irony in this whole situation that a bunch of fans of street art and graffiti suggesting that the police be called over someone illegally painting a wall, but as Jane Golden of the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program commented, “I think the big point here is that it’s really sad to lose a work of art.”
Photos by dasheikee