Ass Good As It Gets

Art in the buff gets buffed; Christian Family Coalition seeks emergency donations

When the Beastie Boys asked, "Professor, what's another word for pirate's treasure?" artist Daniel Fila knew the answer: booty.

Early this past December, when thousands of collectors, curators, and critics descended on Miami for Art Basel, more than just the creations housed within the walls of galleries and the Miami Beach Convention Center welcomed them. Booty called to them from NE 37th Street and 2nd Avenue.

"I wasn't really thinking about Art Basel as much as I was looking for a good wall," says Fila about the expanse he spray-painted and then dubbed Erin, after a college crush. Set back about 100 feet from Biscayne Boulevard and visible to passersby, Erin was a thirteen-foot-tall naked woman viewed from behind, a very ample behind that distracted from a hint of pudendum. Miami native Fila, a former graffiti artist turned commercial illustrator, had the backup of the building's owner, architect Chad Oppenheim, best known as the design mind behind many of South Florida's built and soon-to-be-built loft projects.

One of Erin's admirers puts things into 
Jonathan Postal
One of Erin's admirers puts things into perspective

Tanned and softly glowing Erin, her blond hair neatly rolled into a bun, was a sort of 21st-century Venus, arising gracefully from a grassy knoll in front of the wall. Erin earned many accolades and nary a bum rap during her expo, according to Fila.

"You didn't see anything from the road," Fila says. "You could see that it was a bare ass but you couldn't see anything else until you would go in front of that hill ... it was pretty well covered. There was no playground where kids were going to be. I didn't see any problem."

Someone else, though, needed to check their head. According to Oppenheim, on Friday, March 19, a woman stormed into his office and complained that she drove along Biscayne Boulevard with her children each day and the image offended her. Sure enough, by Monday morning, March 22, the mural had been buffed, in graffiti lingo, or obscured. Done in by a roller and a few coats of paint, Erin was now a big white blotch.

"I was waiting for something to happen like that," Oppenheim says in hindsight. "I'm surprised it lasted as long as it did." Fila was less sanguine about the work's fate. "What's ironic to me, it was treated like it was graffiti," he marvels. "But it wasn't. Graffiti is not legal and that was legal. What they did was illegal, erasing it."

But who is at the bottom of Erin's eradication? Vandals? A rival artist? The county's team of Graffiti Busters? Neither Fila nor Oppenheim knows. Officials from the city's Upper East Side Neighborhood Enhancement Team (NET) office deny any responsibility for the mural's disappearance, claiming that graffiti is removed only at the behest of a building's owner on private property and at each NET office's discretion on a public right of way.

No one has reported the incident to the police. Oppenheim is busy designing buildings. Fila is making new art and recovering from getting spanked by an unknown hater. "My fear is this is going to keep happening all over again," he says. "It's like I'm legit now, what's the problem? It definitely feels like I'm being muzzled, like I can't express myself freely."

Express himself he will, although maybe not with another Erin, who can still be seen in a smaller format by acquiring one of Fila's $300 limited-edition (of 50) giclée prints.

Oppenheim and Fila are considering embellishing the long white wall with something new, a piece they hope will be somehow above destruction. Giraffiti? It just might be, Fila says, "beyond graffiti."

Meanwhile a small drawing of a chirping bird, which Oppenheim likens to "a penguin," has recently appeared on the wall's south end. It is not Fila's work, and Oppenheim didn't commission whoever put it there. Nevertheless he doesn't plan on having it removed anytime soon.

Those religious zealots from Miami's Christian Family Coalition, led by the medieval Anthony Verdugo and the excitable Eladio José Armesto, are at it again. It seems the CFC, which parted ways with the Christian Coalition of Florida in 2003, is still having trouble collecting cash in the fight against the great "homosexualist conspiracy."

Last November, when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that gays have the right to marry under the state's constitution, the CFC cranked up and sent out a plea for $25 donations from Christian brothers and sisters. The money, the electronic missive read, would "save the sanctity of marriage in America!"

Now the CFC is begging for more moola to help defeat a Florida House bill that would address student discrimination and harassment in public schools. The latest e-mail warns readers against Equality Florida, one of several nonprofit groups supporting the bill, and its contingent of 100 "homosexual" students who visited Tallahassee to lobby legislators into passing the proposed law, which the CFC claims will "force kindergarten children to take homosexual and transsexual sensitive classes."

"If everyone receiving this appeal makes an EMERGENCY DONATION of at least $25, we will be able to defeat this homosexual indoctrination bill," the e-mail reads.

Bianca Mejia, sixteen, a tenth-grader at North Miami's Krop Senior High, says the CFC is "wack" because the group is validating all forms of discrimination in public schools. "They are sacrificing student safety to support their own bigotry," opines Mejia, a lesbian and one of the 100 straight and gay students who flew up to Tally last week.

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