April 21st, 2014 | MATTHEW KORFHAGE Arts & Books |

UPDATED: Feud Erupts Over Pearl District Mural Covered With Festival Banner

Artist Klutch sends response and explanation

klutchmural1Klutch's mural as it stands on April 21 - IMAGE: Dylan Serkin

UPDATE April 22, 11 am:

The mural artist, Klutch, has sent a response and explanation via e-mail, reproduced below in part. Klutch thanks Hoyt Properties for use of the space, and in part cites his own mental health issues for his reaction to the WhiskeyfestNW ad. 

"Like us all," he writes, "I'm a flawed human being and often times when trying to do something good I mess it all up and upset people instead." 

His explanation for his objection to the sign is below. 

"When I arrived on Sunday morning I was feeling particularly depressed and just wanted to try and finish the mural before the rain set in this week. Every time I approached the mural I was always prepared to have to cover tags or defacement and was always amazed when I didn't. What I found was far worse. To call that thing that is now attached a banner is being far too kind. That monstrosity is a billboard and it's overzealous Nascar like branding is repulsive to almost everyone who sees it. 

In all fairness WhiskeyfestNW have leased the lot from Hoyt for their event so it is essentially theirs right now. They are rent payers and I am just some artist mooching the space. However there are so many superior ways in we could have existed in harmony had they simply made the effort. They state that they spoke with me last week which is completely untrue. But this seems to be the way in which WhiskeyfestNW is marketing itself as a whole. It seems jock like and better suited for a large Midwestern redneck town instead of Portland. Why couldn't the billboard be placed on top of or in front the mural instead of screwed into it?" 


Original post:

A 130-foot-long plywood mural in the Pearl District was interrupted by a commercial break Saturday.

The construction site at Northwest 10th Avenue and Northrup Street had been the site of a large mural painted by Portland street artist Klutch. On Saturday, his work was partly covered by a banner advertising  the second-annual WhiskeyfestNW. Klutch responded by painting over his own art in red paint. 

"Whiskeyfest destroyed this mural with their mania for NASCAR overbranding," was displayed in large letters on the buffed section of Klutch's mural. "Who puts a billboard over a mural? Money ruins everything good in this world."

On the other side of the billboard were the words, "More ads, less art." 

Klutch's mural on April 21. The protest writing from April 20 has been painted over by the lighter red paint patches.
IMAGE: Dylan Serkin


On Instagram, Klutch asked users to tag the most disgusting images they could find with the hashtag #whiskeyfestnw. The feed (sign-in required) currently includes a urinal full of darkly ominous pee, pages of a disheveled Exotic magazine left on the street, a smattering of dead birds and an Easter egg painted "Whiskeyfest sux." There was also an image of a gloved hand holding a tightly packed ball of feces.

"I was disappointed to see that reaction," says WhiskeyfestNW spokesperson Erika Watson, who tells WW the organization had an agreement with the landlord that predated Klutch's work on the mural. 

The incursion into Klutch's artwork is at first glance ironic: WhiskeyfestNW is a benefit for the Luna Foundation, a charity that offers funding to promote arts opportunities for families affected by poverty or illness. 

"We in no way meant to disrespect the artist," Watson says. "We spoke to him a week before that, and he said that he knew about it." The artwork was always designed to be temporary; on a Kickstarter page for the project, Klutch wrote that he anticipated taking the piece down in early summer.  

Watson says that they took pains not to injure the painting. "We planned on displaying it at the festival," she says, adding that Klutch apologized Monday morning for his reaction to the billboard.

Klutch did not respond to requests for comment, but on his Facebook page April 21 he wrote the following, saying he needed to take a break from art:

One final comment on this then I'm squashing it. I don't want to fight and argue anymore, I've already lost one good friend because of this and I just want it to end.

It was my choice but I went hungry and drove past empty in my gas tank to buy paint for this before the Kickstarter happened. I poured my guts into it this and loved every minute of it. But now it's forever ruined and will be coming down after whiskey fest. In spite of finding out just how much Portland loves and appreciates me I'm pretty disheartened right now. This art shits killing me as much as it's keeping me alive.

I'm not quitting art, I've tried plenty of times before and it's not my choice. But I do think a break would be good for me. The fact that I have nothing else in my life but art, need to find a new place to live ASAP, and have run myself into the ground mentally and physically tells me a break would be a thing.

Save the pep talks, I don't want them. I'll be back if nothing else to paint another mural to honor my commitment to those who supported my Kickstarter. Thanks for the love Portland, it helps a sad old man be a little less so.

 
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