A tag painted by the Swedish-Portuguese street artist and nightclub owner André Saraiva on a rock in Joshua Tree National Park has sparked an investigation after he posted a photo of it on Instagram on February 25. The tag, a shorthand version of Saraiva’s trademark “Mr. A” figure with a top hat and an X and O for eyes, was brought to the attention of outdoorsy blog Modern Hiker, which identified the exact site of the unauthorized painting inside the Southern California park and alerted National Park Service (NPS) authorities to the situation.
Though the artist originally claimed in Instagram comments that the tag “was made with love at friends privet (sic) back yard and not in your national park,” a Modern Hiker reader identified the location as the Contact Mine trailhead in Joshua Tree National Park. Another went to check out the site and took a photo of the tag in situ. The park’s chief ranger, Jeff Ohlfs, told Modern Hiker that they have Saraiva “in (their) sights.”
Hyperallergic contacted officials at the park for an update and was told by a spokesperson that “the case you mention is part of an ongoing investigation and we cannot comment during an investigation.” Vandalism inside US national parks is a federal misdemeanor, and punishable by a fine of $5,000 and as much as a year in jail.
This is just the latest and most high-profile in a series of acts of vandalism at US national parks. Last year artist Casey Nockett painted stylized portraits on rocks and slopes at a dozen national parks, including Joshua Tree, setting off an NPS investigation.
“We are a graffiti-heavy park, unfortunately,” Joshua Tree’s Chief of Cultural Resources Jay Theuer told the Desert Sun at the time of the Nockett spree. “Once damage is done, it can’t always be reversed.”
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