“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
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.
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.
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.