The story of an underground movement, fueled by street art and renegade journalism, attempting to expose the dirty secrets of the two most powerful men in the city.
My name is Jeremy Paulo and I am an artist.
I find inspiration in everyday life, in dreams and in nightmares. I can make you laugh, cry, think and wonder. I will show you places that you have never been, that never were, and that just might be. Give me a minute of your busy day and I will set your mind on fire.
You will not find my work in an upscale art gallery and certainly not in a museum of any sort. No, my work is for all people, rich and poor. When you view my work you will not know my name but you will see my signature, my nom de pinceau if you will. Only, I do not use paintbrushes - I use spray cans.
My name is Red Five and I am a graffiti artist.
I have tagged more buildings in this uptight city than any other street artist who dares to call it home. This is my city and my name is all over it.
Why do I do it? Well, let us take this piece I am finishing up as an example. This is a portrait of a man, some might say an important man, a big man. Not me though; I say he is nothing, a tiny thing who thinks himself much more.
He is Thomas Wilkerson, the mayor of this sad, narrow-minded city, and I know his secrets. The bills laying in his open right palm do not bear Franklin or McKinley’s image, but Victor Grozny‘s instead. Victor is the head of the biggest crime family east of Detroit and I have an inkling he will not like being included in this way.
Oh, the naked boy, crying with his arms hugging his knees, sitting in the mayor’s left hand? Well, I think that speaks for itself.
I have covered the back of the First State Bank with this image to make a statement, to share the truth with my fellow citizens, and to release my rage. This is art that needs to be made, needs to be seen, needs to be understood.
Sure, they will whitewash it away, hoping to keep knowledge hidden for another day. But that is why I carry my digital camera with me each night; with a tripod and a contact at a local online magazine, I make sure my artwork has an audience. A few pieces have even garnered national attention - I suspect this will be one of those.
I place my cans, tripod, and camera into my backpack and sling it over my right shoulder before pausing to admire my handiwork. I cannot stay long though; dawn will be here soon and I need to get some sleep before I show up at my real job, the place where I answer to Jeremy.
It is a piece I can be proud to put my tag on; the homemade paint that I use for the red 5 in the bottom right corner is fading to that beautiful dried blood hue I am so fond of. I had to work fast to get it all done before first light, but that is just part of the thrill of street art. It is provocative, furiously fast, and carries a message that is free from censorship. This is why I do what I do.
The sound of car tires on gravel steals my attention from the portrait and I turn my head to look at the opening of the alley to my left. The appearance of the black and white police car sends adrenaline rushing through my veins and paints a smile on my lips.
Okay, maybe the art is not the only reason I do this.