Feathered Bastard

County Attorney Candy Thomas rips off graffiti artist for truancy campaign?

The original, legal art the County Attorney's office appropriated for its anti-truancy propaganda.

"This crime sponsored by truancy"? A less-than crafty canard.

A close up of the section used in the photo.

Has the office of County Attorney Candy Thomas ripped off the work of a graffiti artist? That would seem to be the case once you study the photo above from anti-truancy propaganda that the C.A. hands out at local appearances. Candy handed this one out at a luncheon for paralegals not too long ago. Some of the paralegals were pissed that they had to sit through what was for all intents and purposes a campaign speech, wherein Candy talked about what a great job he's doing for the county. One of them forwarded the above flier to me, which is part of a larger anti-truancy campaign by the County Attorney, including TV ads, and a Web site. Candy's TV ad doesn't feature the graff, but his Web site does, at least in miniature.

When I saw the flier, I immediately realized that the artwork was from the long legal wall belonging to Miranda's Custom Cars, down on Central and Grant. The wall actually starts on Grant and curves around to 1st Ave. I first documented this al fresco art gallery, one approved in full by the business' owner Luis Miranda, back on July 31 of this year, with a blog post and a slideshow of the various panels done by different artists. The one featuring a masked "Jason" is the one the County Attorney has appropriated.

Obviously the shot on the flier is staged, but where did they get the photo? I've asked the County Attorney's Public Information Officer Michael Anthony Scerbo several times for the name of the photographer, but he's yet to get back to me. At first, I speculated that they acquired this image through a stock photography site. But wouldn't it be just a little too lucky for them to have picked an image that was in fact on a wall less than a mile form the County Attorney's offices?

I showed the flier to proprietor Luis Miranda, and it came as a complete surprise to him. He had never been approached and told about the photo, though he knows a lot of folks stop by the brightly-colored walls of his business and snap pics. Miranda seriously doubted the artist had been contacted about the use of the image. Basically, the display on the outside of Miranda's business was organized by a local artist. Some 10 to 20 guys showed up and did their thing all in one day. Since that initial creative burst, the art has changed, and the walls now feature a whole new series of graffiti images, this time with the input of crews from out of state.

Indeed, those hip to L.A.'s Seventh Letter art collective, the so-called "Gods of Graffiti" will recognize the MSK/AWR tags. Seventh Letter is internationally known, and respected for its lucrative commercial work. Recently, Seventh Letter was featured in a cover story in our sister paper in La-la Land, the LA Weekly.

Thomas' use of this art is an insidious, opportunistic prevarication, both intellectually dishonest and an outright lie. "This crime sponsored by truancy"? There was no crime. This is a skilled piece of art welcomed by the owner of the property. It is not a tag thrown up by a novice graffiti writer, known in that world as a "toy." A graffiti artist of this skill level, especially in a market like L.A., can make a living with cans of Krylon.

Furthermore, the idea that truancy inevitably leads to crime is laughable. Many of the world's greatest artists, thinkers and businessmen not only played hooky, but dropped out of school altogether. Famous school-skirters include Albert Einstein, Peter Jennings, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Kurt Cobain, Jack London, Hillary Swank, Larry Flynt, Joseph Brodsky, Wolfgang Puck, Abraham Lincoln, and on and on and on. And then there are the plain ol' college drop-outs like Ted Turner, Steve Jobs, Steve Martin, Bill Gates, etc., etc.

Still, Thomas pushes this rank load on his anti-truancy Web site, writing,

Before I was elected County Attorney, I served as a prosecutor in the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office in the juvenile division. All too often, the offenses involved either truancy or delinquent children with a history of not attending school. When a request from a school for a truancy citation arrived on my desk, it was like receiving official, written notice of a child’s bleak future.

Think for a second: How many of you out there cut class for one reason or another when you were in school? Hell, I used to cut class all the time to go hang out in a nearby college library, go see a film, or write. I am quite certain that many of the least imaginative individuals in the history of man have attended every day of class, and brown-nosed every teacher they could, like you know Candy's been doing all his life. In this truancy campaign of his, obviously aimed at softening his image for an eventual run for Governor, Candy is promoting education as a means of crowd control and instilling in children the mindless worship of authority. Fuck that cheese.

Doubtless Candy thinks all graffiti artists are criminals of one form or another. It's a common enough perception here in Sand Land. So why is he appropriating their art for his own ends and misrepresenting it as criminal? Because he's a freakin' hypocrite, people.

Anyway, forget that fool, and take a moment to peep the new graff at Miranda's, here.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons