Just a few days before and a few blocks away from this years Academy Awards, there was a unique, edgy, and controversial piece of street art meant to convey a serious message.
The guerrilla sculpture, entitled "Hollywood's Best Party," was a large replica of the distinctive "Golden Man" Oscar award, bent over and using a hundred dollar bill to snort two line of cocaine on the floor, divided with a black, "American Excess" credit card.
Meet Plastic Jesus
The anonymous Los Angeles-based street artist who calls himself "Plastic Jesus" created the artwork, which remained up for several hours until a passerby complained. Plastic Jesus keeps his exact identity a secret due to the illegal nature of his art.
However, he has said that is from London, and moved to Los Angeles to further explore street instillation art that addresses important cultural issues. Buzzfeed has compared him to the famous and also anonymous street artist Banksy, in that both display provocative images in public place, to draw attention to broad social problems. He takes the issue of drug addiction very personally, "My cousin and his wife both died from heroin addictions.
They both got clean and actually met in rehab," but that after a while of living clean, "one relapsed and caused the other to relapse." Many of his sculptures and painting touch on subjects related to addiction and drug abuse, in hopes he can use his work to bring these important conversations out in the open.
Hollywood and drugs
Plastic Jesus collaborator Nick Stern told the LAist the creation was meant to "draw attention to Hollywood's hidden problem of drug addiction" that involves and harms "hundreds of people in the showbiz industry." Last year, Plastic Jesus created a similar work, an Oscar statue with a heroin needle in its arm.
This was shortly after celebrated actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died of a drug overdose. Speaking about this work to the New York Daily News, Plastic Jesus reflected on his own experience with people in the entertainment industry, and "how endemic drug use really is – affecting everyone from aspiring actors and actresses to sound and lighting guys to agents and managers."
This sculpture exposes a simple truth that behind a surface of glitz and glamour, the movie industry has many people in it suffering from substance abuse and addiction. In that respect, Hollywood isn't that different from almost anywhere on earth. From every background and place on earth imaginable, people struggle with addiction, but many are kept from getting help because of the stigma their society puts on addicted people.
He feels that, for many people, cocaine is a part of people's everyday life, but that they don't admit it to others, and therefore remain isolated and helpless in the face of the dangers and addictions the drug creates. This keeps them from getting help. By bringing the issues of drug use and addiction out into the open, Plastic Jesus hopes he can get more people talking about it.
He deeply laments that it takes a high profile death of a famous actor for the issue to be taken seriously, and created both of these art pieces in hopes it would open up a wider conversation about the risks of drug abuse and addiction. Speaking to a CBS local L.A. reporter, he mentioned that celebrities attract headlines by entering luxurious rehab centers, but that no one hears about "directors, producers, hair and makeup people, electricians and sound guys...These people don't get the help they need that the high profile people do."
In response to what he sees as the unfair and unequal treatment and compassion for addicts, he hopes the work will create conversations and awareness about the problems of drug abuse. "If one person who has a heroin addiction or cocaine addiction sees a piece of my art and gets help, well that's it, my work is done." Our focus on addiction should not be assuming it only affects "those people," whether the very poor or the rich and famous, but recognize it is an issue that affects people from every walk of life imaginable.