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Guerrilla Artist Targets Southampton Town Campaign Signs

Each year during election season the Hamptons becomes inundated with campaign signs—the bigger the election, the more signs—and 2013 seemed especially busy in this respect. The 2013 campaign signs lined the roadsides, sullying views all over the South Fork, and there was no shortage of complainers, but one local artist (or maybe a group of artists) proved action speaks louder than words… or snarky tweets.

Soon after the usual horde of campaign signs began popping up, the anonymous painter, or painters, went to work transforming a select few into little works of art, providing motorists with short, intermittent reprieves from politics and the ever-expanding landscape of red and blue names. Instead of this candidate or that, the campaign signs featured interesting motifs and artful photographs printed on paper and affixed to their freshly spray-painted surfaces.

Without targeting one particular party or candidate, the artist seemed to be speaking against the visual pollution, often from the very officials who spend much of the year protecting citizens against far less egregious assaults on the rural and historic East End aesthetic. It seems a reasonable question to ask, “Why are your monstrous signs ok, when local business owners can’t use a plastic sign, even if it is made to appear historic in every other way?”

The photograph above features both sides of one of these painted campaign signs. This particular sign came from Southampton Town Council candidate Frank Zappone. It has been painted over in white, black and gold spray enamel—though thin enough in places to reveal Zappone’s name and slogan—and two printed photographs were glued on with spray adhesive (most likely, in the interest of speed). One side features a photo of a tree at sunset, reminding us perhaps of the local beauty the sign has marred, while the other is a more contemplative image of a girl at a carnival, with Ferris wheel lights making a halo around her head. Is she our artist?

Detail of painted Frank Zappone campaign sign.
Detail of painted Frank Zappone campaign sign. Photo: Oliver Peterson

Obviously this work of guerrilla street art is far from advanced in its application or approach, but it’s important to note that the artist probably did his or her (it seems like she’s female) work quickly and under cover of night so not to get caught. Moreover, the “art” of the piece is more about the action of creating it and the statement made, than it is about the image/object itself.

Stealing, painting or defacing campaign signs on someone’s private property is clearly a crime, but the Zappone sign, for example, was on a public roadside at the corner of Sunrise Highway and County Road 111 in Manorville. Don’t the signs become litter once left on public property? Aren’t they up for grabs?

It wouldn’t necessarily be right to showcase or promote graffiti, but this campaign sign endeavor highlights a certain amount of hypocrisy and the legal grey area in which the publicly placed signs exist.

Other signs like this one were seen on Montauk Highway across from the Shinnecock Reservation, eastbound on County Road 39 and elsewhere around Southampton Township.

What do you think? Is this “reclaimed” campaign sign art? Is it proof of a crime?

Do you know who painted it?

Have you seen other guerrilla art around the East End?

Let us know in the comments below!

Detail of painted Frank Zappone campaign sign.
Detail of painted Frank Zappone campaign sign. Photo: Oliver Peterson
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