As We See It

Zapping back: One artist’s funny response to his public art being painted over

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Artist Thomas Willis’ response to his Zap! utility-box street art being painted over.

When the county launched its Zap! program 10 years ago, the idea was that artwork painted onto utility boxes would help beautify and define neighborhoods while deterring graffiti.

While many of the works, now in seven neighborhoods, have stood up to the elements—including taggers—some haven’t.

Realizing that damaged boxes would need a touch up or be forfeited back to the public utilities, the county went for repairs. Only instead of hiring some of the artists who originally painted the boxes (because they no longer live in Las Vegas), the county hired new artists to paint over those previous designs. So when Thomas Willis spotted an image of his Zap! box after his elemental renderings of water and desert had been repainted with a colorful weasel, the artist now living in Boston replied with a Las Vegas sentiment—digitally placing his old Zap! box in the image of the Landmark implosion. Nothing is sacred.

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