Santa Rosa mural that depicted three women — two of color — defaced with white paint

A mural in Santa Rosa’s downtown SOFA district was defaced by an unknown vandal or vandals Sunday night, the artists say.

Husband-and-wife artists Joshua Lawyer and MJ Lindo-Lawyer completed work on the mural, along with their friend who goes by the name Big Hepos, in December. They did the work for free, and even bought their own supplies, they said.

The mural was intended to beautify the neighborhood and inspire artists to create public art in the area.

But Sunday night someone ruined the mural, which depicted three faces, by splashing a large amount of white paint over each of the faces.

The couple heard the news from a friend early Monday morning.

“I definitely was very shook up about it,” Lindo-Lawyer said. “To me it feels very deliberate and very aggressive, and like an attack.”

The mural was spread out over two unoccupied buildings at 505 and 514 Santa Rosa Avenue, on a former used car lot at the corner with Sebastopol Avenue. The highly visible space was offered up for a mural by the owner, who plans to eventually demolish the buildings to make way for affordable housing.

Two of the faces in the mural depicted women of color, and the third face depicted a white woman. The artists weren’t ready to ascribe a racial motivation to the vandalism.

“We just don’t know the intention behind it,” Lindo-Lawyer said. “It could have been somebody’s angry in general.”

Lawyer said he’s interested in moving forward, rather than dwelling on the destruction of the mural.

“It’s almost a waste of time, at least for me, to put any energy into getting mad about it, or trying to figure out that mindset of why you would do it,” he said.

The neighborhood is an enclave for artists, Lindo-Lawyer said, and she never expected to face vandalism of her work.

“I’ve lived in this area for 20 years and I’ve never seen a mural defaced like that,” she said.

Spring Maxfield, a friend of the couple and Sonoma County arts activist who helped arrange for the trio to paint the mural, said she filed a police report on their behalf when she heard what had happened.

“I went over there to look at it and it was like getting stabbed in the gut,” she said. “It was just eviscerating to see the way that the mural had been defaced.”

The Santa Rosa Police Department wasn’t able to comment on the incident Tuesday, as the sergeant handling the case was out of the office. But Maxfield said a neighbor who had security camera footage of the incident called her and pinpointed the attack to 9:04 p.m. Sunday.

“It was all dark and then there was a splash of white. She couldn’t see the person,” Maxfield said. “Just identify when the building went from all dark to having a splash of white on it.”

Maxfield, who has worked in public art for 25 years, said she can recognize when murals are vandalized by taggers or irate neighbor. This wasn’t either of those, she said. A tagger would have left their own name, and a neighbor would have used a roller to paint over the whole thing, she said.

“This was clearly something about the faces themselves. It was a really aggressive act. And it took some forethought to bring that much paint and splash it. It was very deliberate,” she said.

Whatever the intention behind the act, it’s not going to stop Lindo-Lawyer from making more murals.

“What I am going to do is I’m going to keep pushing to get more murals up. I don’t know if it was meant to intimidate us, but that is one thing, I’m not going to let myself be intimidated by it,” she said.

Maxfield has started a Gofundme page to cover the artists’ work to redo the mural, saying that even though they worked for free the first time, she can’t expect them to do that again. She also wants to buy the supplies they’ll need to complete it.

You can reach Staff Writer Andrew Beale at 707-521-5205 or On Twitter @iambeale.

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