Nantucket’s most unlikely art gallery has a new addition. And the painting is not just a piece of graffiti. It is a political statement.
The old guardhouse that once commanded the entrance to the long decommissioned U.S. Navy base at Tom Nevers has become locally famous for the graffiti that lines its walls, some of the only significant graffiti on the entire island. Perhaps most notable is a rendition of Roy Lichtenstein’s “The Kiss” by local artist Michele LeMaitre, the first piece of graffiti to decorate the crumbling guardhouse.
Now, the guardhouse has a new take on Lichtenstein’s famous painting. And, coinciding with Pride Month, it features two men. The artist, local photographer Mark Crosby, was clear that his decision to depict two men was no coincidence.
“I hope that it might help those still unsure of what’s going on inside,” he said. “I hope it empowers them.”
It was also no coincidence that the painting is located at the end of the route planned for Nantucket’s annual pride car parade—though the parade was ultimately canceled by weather.
“I’m really furious at the climate in this country recently and the attacks that the LGBTQ+ community have had to endure,” Crosby said. “It’s truly maddening. I wanted to do it as a little nod to the queer community and friends I have, to let them know they have allies.”
It had been a long time since Crosby had last made anything with spray paint, but he was undeterred.
“When I was in my teens to early 20s, I used to spray [paint] in my hometown,” he said. “I haven’t picked up a spray can in many, many years but I’ve gotten the bug again.” Inspired by the political climate and LeMaitre’s painting, he decided to bust out his old tools.
“I was pretty nervous on the night and might have rushed a little too much,” he said. “There were quite a few people around which I wasn’t expecting but no one seemed to be bothered about it.”
Perhaps that was because adding graffiti to the guardhouse has become something of a tradition in recent years. Before the new painting, the same wall was temporarily decorated with a blue painting of a woman’s head emerging from the ocean dubbed “Seaside Woman” and signed “SillySav.” That painting was covered with white paint before the new addition arrived, and Crosby wonders how long it will be until his painting suffers a similar fate.
“I’m curious how long mine will last since they painted over the other stuff on the outside recently,” he said.
There is one other mystery, however: what are the Lichtenstein-inspired murals based on?
Neither LeMaitre’s painting nor the new mural is actually based on Lichtenstein’s “The Kiss,” despite the title of LeMaitre’s piece. LeMaitre’s mural is modeled after a practice sketch, or rather a print based on the sketch, conventionally titled “Study for Kiss II.” Even that isn’t the whole story, however. The sketch is almost certainly not an actual study for Lichtenstein’s “Kiss II”, given that it was made after “Kiss II.” Lichtenstein enthusiasts have also determined that Lichtenstein derived the study and the painting it was supposedly a study for from completely separate comics by different artists.
Crosby’s painting is based on a print by a separate artist likely inspired by Lichtenstein’s “Kiss V” and perhaps other paintings in the series as well. And Crosby added his own touch as well: a small comic-style title card in the top left corner reading “AND THEN…”
“I think it…signifies new love and gives validity to the relationship,” he said.
No one knows what will happen next. No one can say how long the painting will last, or what the next addition to the gallery might be. But for now, it stands out in bright red against the peeling white paint of the guardhouse for all to see.