Restoring defaced art: Patrick Henry Johnson’s “The Elixir”

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Los Angeles based artist Patrick Henry Johnson plans to restore his recently vandalized, popular mural “The Elixir” located on 4213 Crenshaw Boulevard. In 2011, Johnson completed the mural of a woman he was previously in a relationship with. After working on it for two months, it became one of his most famous pieces.

For the majority of the painting, Johnson had to use a 30-foot extension ladder while someone held the bottom to keep it from slipping. He would paint a certain area, climb down the ladder, move it over, paint another, and then continue it until it was finished. He was unable to reach the top 10 feet and had to rent a scissor lift to reach that area.

Johnson had to raise money to start and complete the project because it was all funded out of his own pocket. Originally, he was planning on hiring more of his artist friends to help him to turn it into a collaborative project, but was unable to due to of lack of funding. He explained that he was struggling to find the true reason behind why he couldn’t obtain funding for this project until he was on the scissor lift, over 30 feet in the air, painting the top of the woman’s head when it hit him. He felt energy surging through his body and began screaming and crying as he realized he was painting this mural to release all the leftover love he still had for this woman, and he had to do it on his own.

“All the fondness and love that I had for her, I had to release her and I released it all in the painting. So that’s why that painting is so symbolically powerful,” Johnson explained.

Now in 2015, the mural Johnson had worked so hard on and poured so much emotion into has been vandalized. “I don’t understand it. Why would you deface or destroy someone else’s work?” Johnson said.

When Johnson received a plethora of phone calls alerting him that his mural had been defaced, denial was his first reaction and he knew he had to go see it for himself. “So I drove to the mural site… I took the back way so I [could] drive up on it [to] see it from a distance as I’m driving towards it… It was just really heartbreaking to see that someone would do that..”

Johnson then called his sister who lives in Florida to tell her the news. He described her reaction as matter-of-fact. She questioned him about what neighborhood the mural was in and if he expected it to get vandalized, to which he realized he did expect it to happen, he had just hoped otherwise. His sister then advised him to take more measures in the future so it would not occur again.

He plans to repaint the mural over again and “bring it back to its original luster.” When its refurbishment is complete, the city will put a clear coat over the painting. The clear coat will prevent graffiti from sticking to the wall as well as protect it from UV damage.

When The Elixir is completely redone and back to life, Johnson plans to convene a group of people to take a “pilgrimage,” or a mile long walk through the city to the mural. He hopes to see thousands of people converge on Crenshaw Boulevard and “just walk to the completed painting where great music is playing and dedicate the mural to the city.”


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