We've said it before and we'll say it again: street artists of the world, please resist the urge to turn the planet's most well-preserved national parks into your canvases. And for those who can't possibly resist a chance to
create art vandalize one of these precious sites, don't brag about it on Instagram.
This includes street artists in Joshua Tree.
The prominent street artist Andre Saraiva, popularly known as Monsieur A or Mr. A or Andre, posted the above photo to his Instagram account on February 25, showing a rock -- allegedly inside Joshua Tree National Park -- marked in spray paint with a pair of eyes that look similar his signature design. The image's caption reads "#mrA rock !"
Modern Hiker reposted the image and addressed the potentially illicit photo in a blog post, imploring Saraiva to speak up if he was working on private property. According to LAist, the artist responded by claiming that the rock was not located in the national park, and thus he'd done nothing wrong. Modern Hiker readers disagreed, pointing out that the rock is indeed in park territory, citing Google Maps and Ready Or Not data, and Mr. A ceased replying.
Saraiva did not respond to our requests for comment.
In response to Modern Hiker's post, Joshua Tree National Park has since opened an investigation to determine whether or not property has been vandalized. We reached out to the organization for comment, and, although the park is not permitted to speak about ongoing investigations, a representative did express general concern regarding the ongoing problem of graffiti in the region. "Vandalism in the park is something that seems to be an ongoing issue at Joshua Tree," explained press representative Jennie Albrinck. "We're reaching out to our Joshua Tree community for help on this issue. We want the community to realize when people to paint on a natural surface in a park it isn't art. It's vandalism."
In the meantime, whether or not Saraiva actually tagged inside the park's boundaries, Modern Hiker points out the dilemma behind this kind of ambiguous imagery on Instagram. "I can’t tell you if there’s a direct link between things like this and the truly staggering amount of graffiti that’s appeared in Joshua Tree over the past few years," Modern Hiker explained, "but when street artists as famous as Mr. Andre post photos that even appear like they’re painting in nature without permission, it sends a powerful message that the outdoors is a fine canvas for your street art. And that, we feel, is a message that needs to be stopped."
This is not the first time that a brazen artist has taken his or her canvas from the streets to (sometimes illegal) breathtaking sites of natural beauty -- and gloated about it online. Last year, New York-based Casey Nocket was guilty of a similar act, tagging natural sites in a variety of off-limit locations including Yosemite, Crater Lake, Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Joshua Tree, Zion, Rocky Mountain and Bryce National Parks.
To all you aspiring renegade artists out there, take heed. Don't repeat Nocket's mistake.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to include comment from Joshua Tree National Park.