Headline! Mysterious poster removed; artist identified, facing charges
Posted February 16, 2013, filed under From the Sheriff's Office.
From the Sheriffs Office
A mysterious poster alarmed Salida High School administrators who discovered it on February 5. It was removed by sheriffs deputies the same day. The poster was attached to a metal building located across the street from the school, and visible from the school entrance as well as many classrooms.
The cardboard poster, measuring three feet by four feet, contains a graphic drawing of two human brains side by side in the upper panel. Below those are images of two assault-style rifles, painted in vibrant red, one above the other. In the center of the poster is a black horizontal stripe. Black shadowing frames the entire work. The poster had been attached to the building ten feet about ground level. It was secured with glue and several nails. Neither the building owner nor the person leasing the building knew of its presence before being contacted by deputies.
School staff and law enforcement officers were alarmed by the posters dark message given recent events in Newtown and Aurora, as well as the fact that the poster was discovered just one day after Salida officers investigated an incident at the high school that was not connected to the poster.
A sheriffs detective and district attorneys investigator devoted several hours attempting to identify the posters creator and to decipher its cryptic message. Those efforts included interviewing numerous persons and notifying law enforcement agencies in neighboring counties. A bar code found on the back of the carton was traced to a Denver distribution center. Investigators transmitted the image of the drawing to Colorado Bureau of Investigation; FBI Crypto Unit in Quantico, Virginia; Colorado Department of Corrections Gang Intelligence Unit; and Colorado Information Analysis Center operated by Colorado State Patrol in Denver.
Eventually the posters alleged creator was identified. On February 14, a summons was issued to local artist James Edward Descant, 52, of Salida. He is charged with criminal trespass, a petty offence; and criminal tampering, a misdemeanor.
ARTIST RESPONSE EDITORIAL - February 19th, 2013
To the citizens, artists, and consciousness of Salida,
Not knowing the extent of events leading up to and after the discovery of my poster, I was fine with being the anonymous artist. I purposefully made the art on cardboard to apply it to the building, instead of directly. When I first saw that it was gone I figured it had been removed by the owner, a collector of art, or the authorities. The poster was up for weeks and as far as I knew, nary a peep about controversy. But when the grapevine alerted me that someone else was being implicated in connection with my art statement, I was shocked and came forward of my own accord to set the record straight.
I did not know any of this till this past week and not being Banksy, immediately called Chief Clark and Sheriff Palmer, and later detectives showed up at my door. After a week of analysis by our best in blue and all these national entities of intelligence, their first question was "What does it mean?" I smiled and said, with no smart attitude, "Brains Over Guns", a math problem, a fraction, a statement of positivity in a country divided. Their next comment was "Jimmy, we're actually glad it was you." I found them to be professional in their query and they felt I was sincere in my message as a positive one, so we left it at that with no arrest, but on notice that I would probably get a summons.
Later I got a phone call from Sheriff Palmer, and it was cordial. He was most worried that this was going to be another big dust up like the peace sign chapter in town history, and I figured I knew what I would expect from the current DA. An hour later I was served with a summons, and two hours after that came the press release to all area media.
My respect for the Sheriff's office was somewhat eroded after this release which was actually the real 'cryptic message' in it's own dark portrayal of events once learning the whole. It does a disservice. Many have commented and consensus is that it was from The Onion or dark side of Nancy Drew, but no hard feelings. But, I'd really like to take a look at those other reports though to see what conclusions were reached about the message, wouldn't you? If anyone thinks my art is about violence, destruction, or negativity, they don't know me, but can easily find out.
When another friend learned about the placement, he was aghast at the idea of the poster being in eyesight of the school, but that same sightline looks straight across the highway to an actual gun store selling weapons and ammo. That view... not so much attention for many people. Why is the idea of guns' represented on cardboard against guns so horrific, when we are in a whirlwind of real violence by tools of violence nationally and internationally? That's not to say that the owner isn't a nice person with a nice family, as are most gun owners. I'm not naive, or that mean, and I know we have it pretty good here. We still live in the whole world though.
A common argument I hear is that a rock or a stick can be an assault weapon and should we outlaw table legs and on and on and on; which I find to be an absurd cliche. Opinion, but not really an argument. No matter how you use it, cherish it, or protect it, a gun and a bullet have one purpose; their destiny is to destroy something; minutely or catastrophically, if it's a piece of thin target paper or a human skull. There never was a bullet fired that landed on a soft pillow of air and stayed there.
In my math fraction, the numerator has the best and most potential for expansion, open ended to the sky and top heavy. The denominator (supposed equalizer dominator) can only go down, into the ground, and be buried either by physicality or mentality. If a kid cries when they see my art or a man grimaces in hate for my opinion, that's the time to connect for the positive.
Even though I have no children, I voted for new schools for an ideal. I believe that having ANY guns in the schools, around kids, for any reason, on any person is a failure of intellect for our community, and the way we seek to raise up the species. I believe in the intelligent staff and professional peace officers always close at hand. I believe teaching kids that a gun is the only possible tool to protect them in school and in life is the antithesis of strength, but the party line of the sickness of the NRA's administration. I think it can only take the rational actions of members to change it, or abandon it. War type guns, bullets, and bombs, domestic or export, in such a massive retching is a sickness, and the cure is not more sickness.
So, in closing, let your shoulders drop, and breath... and think. This is not the end all moment of me as an artist or the gun, so let the discussions begin. I believe my time of stealth-like unsanctioned art projects is already over, and not just because the paper outed me as 52! But if you have the passion for something provocative and sanctioned on your own private property that you need to get out in positive reponse, you can find me, I'm not hiding, or leaving. Because I love this town, it's people, it's potential, and it's influences. I apologize for making people nervous near the school, and as the 'bad guy' I will take my medicine when the time comes and I ask that you to try to forgive my trespasses, as I have tried to forgive yours. But who's counting?
Peace, Jimmy Descant