Keith Haring's Ghost Arrested
The mystery artist behind local utility box graffiti fashioned after the late artist Keith Haring has been unmasked and arrested.
Tuesday afternoon, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office nabbed Kevin "Chip" Southworth for allegedly tagging nearly a dozen boxes throughout the city with the bright, faceless images made famous by Haring.
Between August 15 and December 29 of 2013, 11 different traffic control boxes owned and maintained by the city were spray painted with graffiti, incurring more than $1,100 in property damage, according to a Facebook post by the Sheriff’s Office.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, an investigation revealed that Southworth had photographed the graffiti and uploaded the images to Facebook accounts. On the accounts under the names "Keith Haring X 2013" and "Keith Haring's Ghost,", he claimed the work as his own and a tribute to Haring.
The Sheriff’s Office said a search warrant uncovered several articles of evidence against Southworth including his cell phone which had several pictures of the graffiti and the clothing he wore during a media interview.
In January, the graffiti artist, who became known locally as "Keith Haring's Ghost," sat down with WJCT’s Melissa Ross to explain the motivation behind his work. He said he felt inspired to start painting shortly after the Jacksonville City Council failed to enact an updated city Human Rights Ordinance protecting employees from discrimination based on their sexual orientation.
“It all started with the Human Rights Ordinance not passing. I couldn’t believe it," he said, during the interview.
“At first it was a form of protest, but I live in these neighborhoods too, and I see these boxes every day that aren’t well kept and look terrible. That’s why I choose them, because they stand out to everyone and look so awful.”
He said he adapted the philosophy of Haring because of its meaning.
Haring’s art which began speckling the New York City-scape in the 1980’s emphasizes equal rights, love and peace. Haring died of AIDS-related complications in 1990.
“What I tried to do is to stick with Keith’s philosophy 100 percent,” he said. “It’s upsetting to live in a city where someone, because of who they love, can be discriminated against their job. It’s pretty weird.”
On Tuesday, Southworth told police he was the person who did the graffiti and set up the two Facebook accounts, according to officers.
He was booked in Duval County Jail and later bonded out.