Street Artist Vandalizes a Rock in Joshua Tree National Park

Andre Saraiva graffiti in California's Joshua Tree National Park. Photo: Andre Saraiva, via Instagram.

Street artist André Saraiva has been accused of leaving graffiti in California’s Joshua Tree National Park. Better known as Monsieur A, André, or Mr. A, Saraiva recently posted a photo on Instagram of a rock that had been tagged with a variant on his signature graffiti symbol, captioned “#mrA rock.” (This incident joins up with our earlier coverage: see Graffiti Cleanup in National Parks Proves ChallengingRacist Vandals Deface Aboriginal Carvings.)

“The outcry about this has been really amazing,” Joshua Tree National Park superintendent David Smith told artnet News, citing phone calls from people all over the country who “are very concerned about anyone who’s mistreating their national park.”

Saraiva is not the first artist to have come under fire for vandalizing a National Park with graffiti in recent months. This past fall, Casey Nocket became the subject of national outrage and a federal vandalism investigation over paintings she created in at least 10 national parks after she posted them on Instagram under the name creepytings (see Street Art Comes to National Parks—Is It Vandalism?)

Though Saraiva has denied that the rock in question was inside the park, claiming on Instagram that it “was created with love in a friends privet [sic] backyard,” Modern Hiker, which broke the story, has confirmed through Google Maps’ imagery that it is in fact within park boundaries. A Facebook user also visited Joshua Tree and confirmed that the rock bearing Saraiva’s tag was in the parking lot at the Contact Mine trail.

Joshua Tree is a designated a Natural Landmark.

Google street view shows where Andre Saraiva likely left graffiti in California's Joshua Tree National Park.  Photo: via Modern Hiker.

Google street view shows where André Saraiva likely left graffiti in California’s Joshua Tree National Park.
Photo: via Modern Hiker.

Somehow, artists aren’t getting the message: the pristine wilderness of our natural parks are not in need of any artistic “improvement.” If you do feel compelled to tag there, sharing such vandalism with social media is only going to get you in trouble—not to mention all headaches you’re creating for the poor folks in who work for the National Park Service.

Luckily, such vandalism “is truly the exception and not the rule,” Smith assures us—although “with 1.6 million visitors a year, you’re bound to have some problems.” This latest incident is still part of “an ongoing investigation,” he adds. “We will investigate the appropriate criminal charges once the location of the graffiti is verified.”

Bottom line? As tempting as it may be, leave your paint brushes behind when you visit our national parks. As Joshua Tree press representative Jennie Albrinck told the Huffington Post, “We want the community to realize when people to paint on a natural surface in a park it isn’t art. It’s vandalism.”

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