Anti-Trump expletive removed from downtown mural in Lexington, Kentucky

Posted at 6:41 AM, Oct 23, 2019

LEXINGTON, Ky. — An expletive directed at President Donald Trump has been removed from a mural after the "hidden" message caused a stir online.

The mural, titled "The Devil Is in the Details," was created by New York-based artist ELLE as part of Lexington art collective PRHBTN's annual street art festival. The festival has brought dozens of large-scale works to the city.

The colorful piece on the side of a building near Short and Church streets depicts the faces for four women and a snake emerging from a can of spray-paint.

But it also contained what the artist said was supposed to be a hidden message: "F*** Trump."

By Tuesday night, the words had been spray-painted over. The building's owner confirmed that he had ordered the words be covered up after news of the explicit message caused a stir online.

Earlier, the artist said the words were supposed to be invisible unless shown under a blacklight. But for some reason, the special paint didn't dry clear. She also released a statement about the work.

"In America we are all entitled to share our opinion, and it's important to exercise this right," her statement read, in part. "Let me be clear, this is not about politics, this is about expressing my anger: I am fed up!"

"I'm not trying to make people angry. I'm trying to make people talk," ELLE said Tuesday.

After the words were covered up, she took to her social media accounts to criticize the move, saying: "Free speech isn't a thing in Trump Territory."


Despite her disappointment with having the words removed, the artist said she was happy the entire work wasn't defaced.

"I'm grateful that the dude who painted over the text on my painting did so respectfully in not painting over the artwork," she wrote. "So I guess if it was gonna happen it happened in the best possible way."

The building's owner, Michael Davidson, and PRHBTN co-founder John Winters both said they were not aware the artist was going to include the profanity in the work.

"She's an artist and she is certainly free to say and do what she likes, and I gave them unfettered access to the side of that building to put up whatever they wanted," Davidson said. "They did not run by me what it would actually be."

Before it was taken down, a spokeswoman for Mayor Linda Gordon said the issue was beyond municipal control.

"This is a mural on a private building," Susan Straub said in a statement. "No public dollars are involved in this mural. As much as we don't agree with the use of vulgarity, this is a free speech issue."

This story was originally published by David Nichols on WLEX in Lexington, Kentucky.