A Staten Island artist whose wall-sized American flag mural was defaced with the words “Patriotism makes me sick” last month has found a way to protect his Kensington artwork from future vandals — he’s added a fierce, 10-foot-long bodyguard.
Scott LoBaido returned to McDonald Avenue near Cortelyou Road to paint a massive rattlesnake, as well as the phrase “Don’t tread on me” atop the unpatriotic scrawl on Friday — references to a banner once used by the Navy known as the Gadsen flag.
But the additions weren’t just for show — they were a direct threat to the man who defaced his mural several weeks ago, LoBaido said.
“Don’t tread on me, and don’t tread on this flag,” said a paint-speckled LoBaido as he finished his mural add-ons. “This snake has been provoked and now it’s coming at you.”
LoBaido has been trying to track down the vandal with the help of police, which has had access to footage of the vandalism taken from a nearby security camera, but the bearded vandal remains on the loose.
LoBaido said he isn’t going to stop looking for the wall scrawler.
“I have private investigators looking into this for free, and a forensics guy who used to be a Navy spy in San Francisco helping me out,” said LoBaido. “This thing ain’t dying down — I know I’m not going to let it down.”
LoBaido said the mural tagger went too far by writing “Patriotism makes me sick” on his flag.
And this artist knows something about taking things too far.
LoBaido was arrested in 1999 for hurling horse manure at the Brooklyn Museum as he protested an exhibit showcasing a black Virgin Mary statue made out of elephant dung.
The muralist said he would applaud the vandal if he had put his statement on anything else but his flag.
“I’d shake this guy’s hand if he was protesting corporate America or City Hall,” he said.
“But we can protest because of that flag. To me, it is sacred ground,” he said.
Kensington residents said they didn’t know what to make of the freshly painted snake, but said they still liked the flag mural.
“I think it’s beautiful,” said Hassan Evans, who passes the mural everyday on his way to the train.Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg
©2012 Community News Group
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