It's a mural mystery, rife with identity theft, alleged graffiti, and of course, a massive Soviet-inspired Cookie Monster. Last week, artist Joshua Hawkins says a local landlord named Nate paid him "a good amount" to paint a massive portrait on the side of his Peoria, Illinois building, featuring Cookie Monster holding a rainbow-beaming cookie over the town's skyline above Russian text roughly translating to "World. Earth. Cookies." Nice. Yet it seems our Slavic Sesame Street Star's Peoria appearance was short-lived. Days later, the painstakingly detailed mural was no more, concealed in a thick coat of white paint. The perpetrator? Nate Comte, the building's actual infuriated landlord, who maintains he gave Hawkins no permission nor payment to adorn his brick building with the blue beast's image.
"It wasn't a mural. It was graffiti," the legitimate landlord told the Peoria Journal Star. "Now I'm the evil Grinch and getting hate mail." Wrong franchise, buddy. Wrong franchise.
So how did this all begin? Two weeks ago, the artist says the alleged "Nate," who he met at a gallery over a year ago reached out to tell him that he wanted a massive mural on the side of his building. Seems legit. After being offered "one of the best paying commissions I've ever had," which included being paid half of the rate upfront in cash as well as the materials needed to create the work, Hawkins accepted, even hiring a crew to help him with the extra funds. Although the artist, and let's be real, probably a lot of us, are confused about what, exactly the mural means, he says he's happy with his work. All's well that ends well, right? Wrong.
A few days later, Comte, who says he had been out of town for Thanksgiving, returned to find the Cookie connoisseur in all his Russian glory plastered across his property. "I don't hate art, but don't know what the hell that was," he said of the, erm, unique discovery. After sourcing Hawkins' information from the business cards he handed out while completing the task, decided to give him a ring.
"What the hell is this mural on my building?" he reportedly asked the artist before threatening to call the authorities. Although initially confused, Hawkins tried to explain himself, calling upon the tale of the mysterious Nate, the alleged mastermind behind the whole fiasco, in his defense. Yet his rationale was nearly useless on the real Nate. "I don't think anyone is that stupid," the landlord said of Hawkins' story.
Days later, the artist took to Facebook to express his side of the story as well as his frustrations.
"Something insane is going on with this mural. The mural that we painted has been completely painted over by the building owner," he wrote alongside before and after photos of his work. "Evidently the guy that hired me to paint the mural was NOT really the owner of the building! It was definitely a weird situation from the beginning, and we should have asked more questions. The real owner contacted me, asking why the hell I painted this 'crazy shit' on his building. I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. THIS IS INSANE. One of the best paying commissions I've ever had has turned into the weirdest fuckery I've ever delt with. I do apologize to the owner of the building, and while this is stressful and confusing-- the fact remains that we were paid by someone!?"
Despite this insane "fuckery," Hawkins says he learned a valuable lesson -- maybe vet your clients a tiny bit more before painting a massive Cookie Monster mural on their property. "It was definitely a weird situation from the beginning, and we should have asked more questions," he said. "I'm still trying to wrap my head around who this guy is, and why he paid me to paint a mural on a building that isn't his."
So, folks, C may be for Cookie, but C is also for Check to make sure the landlord commissioning your communist Cookie Monster mural is actually legit. Lest your masterpiece be destroyed in a paint of glory.