Gay ‘bandit’ artist rainbows up Atlanta eyesore for Stonewall Pride

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You gotta love John Morse, and we do. If you’re not up on the gay Atlanta citizen provocateur’s message-driven art, behold the way his brain works: An annoying East Atlanta graffiti magnet gets the Morse treatment just in time for Stonewall Weekend.

This week, he of the  “controversial” (to uptight people in Atlanta) and award-winning (in New York City) city-wide signage installations, as well as a rainbow-flag salute all across Atlanta last year,  set his artistic sites a lot closer to home. Literally. The rainbow is the artist's medium and message once again, but this time, it's Morse playing the riled-up as a neighbor instead of busybodies getting worked up over him.

“The rainbow/color spectrum has been a motif in my art for many years, including as far back as 'The Color Spectrum in Fruits and Vegetables' in 1988,'” Morse says.  “I expect to continue to employ it for as long as i have the ability to create art.”

On Thursday, Morse had enough in a battle for graphic dominance on a wall near his Star Dog Studio in East Atlanta on Moreland Avenue between Confederate and Burns Streets. The wall is all that's left of a former car wash, which was a planned condo site that never manifested, and has since become a “gaping hole of neglect,” Morse tells Project Q.

“The wall across the street from our home and studio has been plagued with bad graffiti for the past decade or so,” Morse says. “So the studio did a bit of a pop up installation.”

It's the site of a back-and-forth between neighbors and tagger scofflaws that came to a head this week. Battle worn, Morse and a lesbian neighbor came up with a colorful new tactic (top photo). Photos below show the latest progression from Tuesday to Thursday, including the current look with a signature Morse twist. With an assist from neighbor Skip Marklein – a lesbian “sister” as he calls her, shown in the 3rd pic – Morse “rehabbed the blight with a shout out to Pride weekend,” he says. 

“Painting over the graffiti does no good as the taggers appear the next night,” the artist says. “Over the years, neighbors had covered over the graffiti, but this essentially just left the wall as a fresh canvas for the next round of taggers.  We, in fact, covered over the most recent tag — a truly bad piece of black and white nonsense that we and everybody else had to look at for the last three years — with grey-green paint on Tuesday, only to see it tagged on Wednesday night, with yet another lousy, obnoxious tag.”

Neighbors who were sick of the graffiti approve, according to text messages Morse recieved.

“Within minutes of finishing, we received very positive reactions from several neighbors who saw the project, including 'Looks great — thanks' 'That is awesome! Good job!' 'Spectacular' 'Wonderful' and 'Moreland is a happier place.'”


Photos courtesy John Morse


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