San Francisco artist claims his utility box artwork was defaced by homophobic neighbor

BySuzanne Phan KGO logo
Saturday, October 14, 2023
SF artist claims his public artwork defaced by homophobic neighbor
LGBTQ artist J Manuel Carmona painted a mural last month on a utility box in SF. But within 48 hours of finishing the project, someone painted over it.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Artist J Manuel Carmona painted a mural last month on a utility box in the Mission District. He says he was inspired by his good friend Juanita MORE! -- a drag queen and activist.

But within 48 hours of finishing the project commissioned by the city, someone painted over it.

"I felt horrible. I feel violated. I feel disrespected and humiliated," Carmona said.

Carmona power washed the box at 22nd and Valencia Streets, removing the brown paint over his mural.

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Artists Juan Manuel Carmona and Simón Malvaez created Queeroes, a new SF mural featuring 12 LGBTQ+ legends to spark curiosity and "mucho amor" for all who stop to admire.

But then, there was a confrontation between Carmona and a man who lives nearby. It was captured on cellphone and shared on Instagram.

"Go paint it somewhere else please," the man said.

"No, I have a permit," Carmona said.

Carmona says the man then took out a scraper and more brown paint.

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"Please do not destroy this," Carmona said.

"I'm not," said the man.

"Yes, you are!" said Carmona.

Juanita MORE! says she's heartbroken the work done by her friend was destroyed.

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"To see it defaced in a way, which is obviously homophobic, is really unfortunate," MORE! said.

Carmona responded by painting in pink words: "I was erased by homophobia."

"As an artist, no one should see their work defaced like that. Also as a Queer, Latino, proud citizen, I don't believe censorship like that should happen or be permitted," Carmona said.

ABC7 News reached out to the project partners Paint the Void and City Joy Fund

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With their help, nearly three dozen artists have painted 100 utility boxes in different San Francisco neighborhoods.

"There is definitely a precedent for vandalism and having things being tagged. But this feels a lot more of an attack against the Queer community, and in this instance, feels really targeted," said Meredith Winer with Paint the Void.

Carmona wants to turn a negative into a positive.

"I would like to paint the box again, and I would like to have a conversation with this individual," Carmona said.

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Carmona said he and community groups are now trying to organize a public response.

"We want everyone to know we are together are not afraid. We are not going to permit censorship like this," Carmona said.

ABC7 News reached out to the SF Arts Commission for comment. The group issued a statement saying:

"This mural was commissioned by Paint the Void and placed on a SFMTA Utility Box. The Arts Commission's Visual Arts Committee reviewed and approved the design in August 2023. (The Arts Commission approves the design and location of all works of art that are placed upon city property or that are financed in whole or in part with city funding.)

We are aware of the video of the mural being painted over and it pains us to see any work of art destroyed in such a manner. The San Francisco Arts Commission condemns any act of vandalism and destruction of public art. This mural, while privately funded and not part of the Civic Art Collection, helps beautify the neighborhood and urban environment. The countless murals in San Francisco are an integral part of the City's visual landscape and help showcase the diverse and rich history of San Francisco."

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