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Vandalism by Casey Nocket at Crater Lake (photo via calipidder.com)

A hiker who’s been painting portraits on cliffs, rocks, and slopes at US national parks and posting images of the compositions on social media is now the subject of a National Park Service (NPS) investigation, according to the blog Calipidder.

The artist, Casey Nockett, was using the since-deactivated Instagram handle @creepythings to post pictures of her au plen air acrylic vandalism. The works she documented include a portrait of a pale figure and a decorative frieze atop a rocky mountain ridge in Death Valley National Park, the face of a woman with blue hair painted in profile overlooking Crater Lake in Oregon, and a painting of a bald man’s head with a snake coming out of it in Yosemite National Park. According to reports by Modern Hiker and the Los Angeles Times, Nockett’s outdoorsy vandalism spree also took her to Zion National Park and Canyonlands National Park in Utah, Joshua Tree National Park in California, and Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park.

Vandalism by Casey Nocket in Yosemite National Park

As online outrage has mounted, the NPS issued a statement yesterday, explaining:

While we can’t discuss details of a case under investigation, we take the issue of vandalism seriously. National parks exist to preserve and protect our nation’s natural, cultural and historic heritage for both current and future generations. Vandalism is a violation of the law and it also damages and sometimes destroys often irreplaceable treasures that belong to all Americans.

There are forums for artistic expression in national parks because national parks inspire artistic creativity. These images are outside that forum and outside the law.

Though Nockett has since gone silent on Instagram, a Tumblr blog where she had previously posted images of her interventions now records her interactions with angry commenters.

Vandalism by Casey Nocket in Death Valley

In response to one critic, Nockett wrote: “if banksy did it u’d have a hardon.” But her allusion to the secretive British street artist only earned her more vitriol for deigning to compare herself to Banksy. She then posted the following retort:

YOU ARE RIGHT I AM NOT AS GOOD AS BANKSY BUT IF I WAS THEN PEOPLE WOULD STEAL ROCKS FROM NATIONAL PARKS AND SELL THEM AT LLOYDS AUCTIONS FOR 12 MILLION POUNDS SO IT’S ACTUALLY GOOD

National parks in the US are federally owned land, and as such any acts of vandalism committed thereupon are considered federal misdemeanors punishable by a fine or jail time.

Benjamin Sutton

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy Sherman, and other divisive issues have...

19 replies on “Hiker’s Poor Paintings on National Parkland Pique Feds”

  1. Her alleged “artwork” simply does not fit with the surrounding beauty of the natural landscape. This should be eradicated immediately with a swift and just penalty enforced.

  2. Compared to fracking on “public land” acrylic on rock seems like a slight misdemeanor. But, I’ll bet she’ll be caught a prosecuted to the fullest extent. That we can do. My advise, use chalk… take a picture… pick up your trash and leave.

      1. At least chalk will wash away and is benign to the environment. Of course if she was painting on National Forest land instead of National Park land, anything goes, including tracking, mining with mercury, clear cutting etc.

        1. I think acrylic is pretty inert. The problem is the same as the problem with urban graffiti. Some is very clever or decorative, but then less talented people get into it, and pretty soon you’re seeing nothing but vandalism and defacement. Ironically, the nation reveres Mt. Rushmore, the greatest act of vandalism against natural beauty in the history of the world.

        2. If this was a political statement about fracking or clear cutting she would have either indicated it visually or expressed it in her blog instead of rambling on about Banksy. She’s a copycat who wants attention, not on merit or skill, but shock value, nothing more, just another casualty of my sad self-absorbed generation. She should be nit even mocked but FORGOTTEN.

    1. Don’t try to pretend meaning is there when there is none. See what is really there, this isn’t a statement about fracking, this is the gradiosity of a narcissistic person.

  3. There should be an additional punishment for bad art. An atrocious arrogance backed up by an atrocious drafting skill.

  4. It’s assumed that the new Tumblr account is not actually the Ms. Nockett. There have been sources saying that she is being cooperative with authorities and regrets her actions, according to Modern Hiker.

  5. I’m a fan, let us create where we feel, how we feel…not half as devastating as most of the atrocities we witness throughout our earth on a daily basis in our newspapers and TV sets. someone wants to express themselves by painting what they feel and want to communicate on some rocks, wherever the rocks may be, please…go ahead. everyone else, chill out, worry about your own stuff, and express yourself however you see fit. applause to creepy things, keep on rocking. we are but dust in the wind when you look at the big, big picture. big love to all.

  6. Even if some people are judging her work at least she had the courage to make art, follow through with her idea and show it to the world. Maybe she’ll continue her pursuit of art and in some years become a great drafstman and chalk would’ve been a better medium.

  7. it’s not even about bad art though. graffiti on buildings i can get, but in nature is just bad art even if it is good art.

  8. This is what we get for telling children their bad art is special when they have no talent. I can’t explain it away, it’s visually mediocre and doesn’t even have a good theme or make a profound statement to make up for the lack of visual complexity. It’s a megalomaniac sized version of “Kilroy wuz here” on a bathroom stall.

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