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Plagiarism, Wal-Mart Graffiti and Leaving Your Mark on the World

“I wanted friends so bad in this world that I stole other people’s art to get them,” he wrote. “I don’t have any friends. I’m sick of being alone. The first piece I stole…People loved that… and I got many followers from it. I had people talking to me now. I just wanted people to like me.” –Bubo, Graffiti Artist

walmart graffiti child slave labor
Last summer, I drove out to a vacant Wal-Mart in Midwest City to see some graffiti Oklahoma-based street artist Bubo told me about on Twitter. It was a sweltering July day. The kind that softens asphalt and dissolves a cheerful facade. The only smile not melted for miles was the happy face painted on the side of a yellow trash can.

Behind the abandoned ghost box, was a mattress, trash blowing in the wind, and a blank canvas. A deserted cinder block exhibit hall, ripe for political statements.

I named her Rooi. She was Bubo’s depiction of an African child wearing a Wal-Mart vest. Above her in orange letters the words: Support Child Slavery. Shop at Wal-Mart.

Trash can with smile, Wal-Mart

Trash can with smile, Wal-Mart

I don’t keep up with the Wal-Mart haters. Maybe I should. I shop at Wal-Mart to save money, which reminds me of something Dave THE ANNOYING Ramsey says, “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”

But, I don’t want to talk about Wal-Mart. I found out over the weekend Bubo is dying. Even though he painted Rooi — he plagiarized art online for a year. He was outed last week by Vandalog, a website that features street art. That’s how I found out he’s sick. But, I should have known. Bubo means swelling of the lymph nodes.

Bubo responded to the allegations that he photoshopped his name into photographs of artwork he found online. He’s sorry for what he did and wrote a full confession, which Vandalog published.

“I wanted friends so bad in this world that I stole other people’s art to get them,” he wrote. “I don’t have any friends. I’m sick of being alone. The first piece I stole…People loved that… and I got many followers from it. I had people talking to me now. I just wanted people to like me.”

I more or less lost interest in taking pictures of graffiti after Bubo and Rooi. The graffiti scene in Oklahoma City is boring. It’s mostly vandals swirling colors and letters together. It doesn’t really say anything. I mean, if you’re going to illegally paint on the side of a train or a building, the least you can do is make it political or poetic.

Bubo’s painting of Rooi was the best I found in my year-long adventure of taking pictures of graffiti.

This story should end with me telling you city officials painted over Rooi, which is exactly what happened shortly after I posted the pictures on my blog. But, instead, it ends with confessions of loneliness, drugs, and cancer. Like so many other things, I didn’t see that coming.

Wal-Mart Graffiti

wal-mart graffiti child slave labor
I don’t know Bubo or if his dying is real. We all die a little every day. Except for Rooi. I found her one summer hiding behind an Oklahoma Wal-Mart. They painted over her. The mattress and the happy trash can outlived her. We all want to make our mark on the world before we die. Thanks to Bubo, Rooi is embedded in pixels forever on the world wide web.

Gen X Blog Jennifer Chronicles

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  1. Anonymous

    Hello Jenn & Ms Vicious.

    I’m an officer with the Chicago Police Dept. I regret to inform you that the gentleman you speak of has unfortunately passed away.

    I was one of the first on scene and I know that we speak of the same person because of the art that was taken out of his vehicle. 17 canvas paintings, 1 drawing pad that had recently been used, 4 journals that cronicled the last 25 years of his life and 1 suicide note.

    I want to reiterate what Ms Vicious said when she spoke of this man’s level of skill. We had the paintings professionally assessed by the Art Institute Of Chicago. Needless to say they were very impressed as were all of us. It is a great loss and I’m very sorry for yours.

    I do have one question to anyone that could answer it. This man had a drivers license issued by the State of Illinois and lived here almost all of his life, even graduating from college here. Why was he in Oklahoma?

  2. MsVicious

    Hi Jenn,

    First off, I just want to thank you for writing this piece on B. I was contacted by B some time ago at another site and we hit it off really well. In my opinion, he is a great guy regardless of what others might claim. I, like you, learned about B’s illnesses and loneliness through RJ’s blog. My only gripe with RJ’s blog is this: Yes, “bubo” was guilty of plagiarizing certain street art and yes, he confessed to his wrong doing. However, ROOI and BHP were NOT the only art pieces that he created. Other than the “street art,” if anyone really took the time to look at his canvas/sketch work, THEN they would realize what caliber B truly is at. (My favorite that he gifted me was “Kiss Me Thrice”… a pencil drawing of 3 Hershey kisses.)

    Yes, he said he plagiarized the work of others with the hopes that people would like him; however, the issue of the matter is that there were people who loved his work, but B was just too hard on himself and overlooked their interests. I wish he still had his canvases up for everyone to see, but those are now long gone. I have kept in touch with B since he disappeared from Twitter. Unfortunately, I received a heart wrenching email this morning from him and now the only thing I can do is to wait on this end and pray that my email will alert me that I have mail from “modigliani.”

    MsV with the “telemagenta” heart

  3. Brett T

    Wonder where he bought the paint.

  4. Andi Fisher

    Wow, so much drama surrounding the world of graffiti! I’m glad you were able to capture it in time. I guess that is one aspect of graffiti, it can disappear at any moment….

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