Sometime in mid-June, at the nadir of the oil-spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, a massive, fifteen-foot-tall stencil of a heron appeared on the graffiti-covered flood wall that runs along the Mississippi bank just south of downtown. The bird was emaciated, its narrow beak gaping wide. The wings and body melted into globs of spray paint the color of light sweet crude, a stark contrast to the whitewashed background on which it was painted. The message "Big Oil Kills" was scrawled in black and red beneath. Under the bird was another stencil: a pile of human skulls. The work was one of many created over the summer by Jonny Xacto. His typical trademark is old vinyl records plastered to walls and stenciled with "Cheech Guevara," a colorful composite image of the two pop-culture icons. Yes, Peat Wollaeger remains the undisputed king of stencils in St. Louis, but this year Xacto added something new, radical and colorful to the St. Louis streetscape.
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