Fast Life Fat Lie
MTO’s short-lived mural “Fast Life” is a testament to the power of art. The global street artist came to Sarasota in 2011 to participate in the Chalk Festival’s inaugural Going Vertical event. His mural – which featured the words “Fast Life” tattooed across a man’s fingers -- quickly became a flashpoint of controversy. But before getting into that, a bit of information about the artist is in order.
Like Banksy, MTO’s identity is a closely held secret. Publicly available information reveals that he was born in France and that his first name is Mateo. Although he studied photography, drawing and graphic design, MTO hadn’t ventured into painting until he picked up a can of spray paint in Barcelona in 2008. He quickly became known for his larger-than-life realistic grayscale images. (His use of black and white is a nod to old fashioned film photography. He often incorporates some red as a reference to the red light of a development room.)
Back to the controversy. Opponents of MTO’s mural felt the tattooed hands were synonymous with jailhouse tattoos and gangs. This wasn’t an image for which they wanted their neighborhood to be known.
MTO was surprised by the push back. In an interview, he said, “I expected some complaints about the graffiti or hip-hop aspect of the work, but naively I didn’t ever imagine that this particular painting could be associated with gang criminality…” He later commented that he wasn’t familiar with the demographics of the Newtown community in which the mural was located and that the work was intended as a commentary on the prosperity of Sarasota’s downtown. “The original title of the piece was going to be ‘Fast life, fast lie, fat lie,’” he said.
In a door-to-door poll of 100 persons in 90 households in the neighborhood surrounding the mural, the vote was evenly split between those who wanted the mural to be removed and those who wanted it to stay. The owner of the building on which the mural was painted eventually tired of the controversy and had the mural painted over.
While “Fast Life” can no longer be seen in Sarasota, MTO does have some murals around town. His Archer can be found in the Burns Court area of Orange Avenue and his movie-related murals live on the third floor of the Palm Avenue Garage. Appropriately, the commemorative painting of “Fast Life” is located with MTO’s “Archer” behind it.
Luther was born and raised in Michigan, but has been in Florida since 1989. He never went to art school. He learning how to draw by looking, and asking. "I've loved to draw since I was a kid, couldn't afford paints, but always had a pencil, a #2 and a sheet of paper, later color. Color pencils taught me about color blending, now, painting, it all has just transformed. I have to add, Denise Kowal, the Chalk Festival, I love, I've been helped and inspired, to step out of the box. A person, an organization that are truly special to me, and one day we will all prosper because of it. No borders, no boundaries. Lastly, Sarasota, my home for decades, I didn't realize the length and breath of the trials and tribulations for people like me, having grown up in the North. But things are a changing, with folks like Denise, and myself. Lets make the change for the best! The story of black folks in Sarasota, their hard work to build this city, with no recognition, but I felt I would do my part. My part to bring history to the present and the future. Because it took all of us to do so, so lets give credit to where credit is do."
Nanette Crist is a retired lawyer who began blogging when she moved to Florida. It was an online diary of sorts, a way to keep track of her new life. It was also a good way to share her discoveries with friends and family outside the area. Over time, Nanette realized her writing makes her experience the world differently. She keeps an eye out for interesting things to write about and then delves more deeply into them as she crafts her words. It's all about telling the story. Nanette's blog can be found at http://nanettesnewlife.blogspot.com.