Did a Famous Graffiti Artist Vandalize This Beloved American National Park?

André Saraiva has come under fire for an image of a boulder in Joshua Tree National Park he seemed to have tagged.
(Photo: 'Modern Hiker'/Instagram)
Mar 1, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Kristina Bravo is Assistant Editor at TakePart.

His works have appeared in museums across the world, but where Paris-based street artist André Saraiva may have displayed his latest handiwork has provoked the ire of many people.

Saraiva, better known as André, this week posted on his now private Instagram account an image of a defaced boulder that appears to be in Joshua Tree National Park. It features the “eyes” of his trademark Mr. A figure.

The artist told Modern Hiker through Instagram that the work was “created with love in a friend’s private backyard.” But using Google Maps Street View and an app that ascertains a social media post’s likely location, the hiking blog determined that the boulder is at a trail inside the park. A reader visiting the park also sent a photo of the boulder in question, and hiker and blogger Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd said that she recognized the spot from the photo as the trailhead to the Contact Mine, which is in Joshua Tree National Park.

It wouldn’t be the first time a graffiti artist has vandalized a government-protected area. Last year, Sowards-Emmerd exposed a case of an artist who appeared to have vandalized 10 national parks, flaunting them on Instagram.

Defacing national parks is prohibited, and Joshua Tree National Park hasn’t confirmed whether Saraiva broke the law. But Casey Schreiner at Modern Hiker brings up a valid point.

“[W]hen street artists as famous as Mr. André post photos that even appear like they’re painting in nature without permission, it sends a powerful message that the outdoors is a fine canvas for your street art,” he wrote. “And that, we feel, is a message that needs to be stopped.”