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Trash-Can Love: Who's been Tagging Dumpsters in Marfa?

Marfa's 2014 Love Dumpsters. (Tom Michael / Marfa Public Radio)

MARFA - Just before the New Year, a message started popping up around Marfa. It was written in graffiti on metal dumpsters across town. The message was the letters L-O-V-E in bold, silver cursive.

Who was this positive prankster? We got behind the wheel to investigate, with Marfa resident Hilary DuPont.

We started counting – six, seven, eight. In front of the grocery store and hidden in alleys. Eleven in total. All the same – the distinctive cursive scrawl. This wasn’t the hesitant graffiti one usually found around town. These were the marks of an outsider.


After a few minutes of social media sleuthing, it seemed that several claimed the culprit was Curtis Kulig, a New York-based artist who uses the word LOVE as his signature mark. This artist has worked with big brands like Nike, Levis's and Carharrt.


I enlisted KRTS News Intern Zane Brzezinski to do a side-by-side comparison. According to Zane, “Yeah, it looks exactly the same. It's the same cursive – especially the V – it has to be the same guy.”


Now, if Kulig tagged eleven dumpsters in Tokyo or Paris – as he has been reported to do – you'd have to really hunt to find them. But ten dumpsters in Marfa goes a long way. The town is almost saturated with Kulig's message of “Love”.


Some found it difficult to hate on the positivity, while others didn't struggle.


Marfa citizen Rob Crowley: “A sticker that said LOVE ME was put on the bumper of my truck. I wasn't feeling the love. It's someone coming in and damaging personal property for commercial gain.”


The commercial nature of Kulig's LOVE ME brand and in-the-dark-of-night Marfa tagging spree bare similarities to Playboy Marfa's less than graceful entrance on to the Marfa landscape last summer. That piece of art also appeared overnight without explanation.


In search of answers, KRTS News reached out to the artist and received this message from Kulig's Studio Manager confirming that, yes, the Marfa Love was Kulig's. He quote “wanted to see marfa first hand as it's a very special epicenter of art that many dear friends have raved about.”


She went on, “while his message in other cities typically takes over walls and signs, in Marfa he didn't want to do anything to manipulate the landscape, so instead opted for disregarded dumpsters hoping to bring LOVE to them, giving them attention and a kind of reverence that's unexpected. And as Curtis pointed out, we throw away love every day so it seems kind of fitting.”


As of airtime, messages to Republic Waste Services (the owners of Marfa's dumpsters) were unanswered.


We spoke with Marfa City Administrator Jim Mustard to better understand potential recourse for concerned citizens.


Mustard notes, “The city of Marfa, like many cities, has no specific ordinance against graffiti – thus individual property owners would have to talk to the sheriff's office about damage.”


Mustard added that the City has removed graffiti on occasion after a high volume of complaints from Marfa residence.


So, without a critical mass of complaints, Marfa may be left with this message of love for the some time to come.