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Monty Esposito is an artist -- not a gang member

BORN TO SPRAY:

In 1998 the Post Standard's Dick Case wrote a lengthy poetic account of urban artist, Monty Esposito's struggle.

Twelve years later, not much has changed.

Esposito makes his living as a tattoo artist at 315 Tattoo on Wolf Street (between Stella's and Badda Bing). But his first passion is as a muralist. He can paint and draw in most any style, using most materials. But his medium of choice is spray paint. He likes the vibrance, the consistency, the flash.

He works with a crew of like-minded painters, Brandon Lazore and Sean Sherlock. Their work was once scattered throughout the city of Syracuse, until it was washed away by city officials, misunderstanding its intent.

"We're out here trying to beautify Syracuse one wall at a time," Esposito said.

The three might be considered graffiti artists except, "We choose not to vandalize people's property," Lazore said, "Our goal is to get murals that run for years, not to keep getting painted over."

"It doesn't make any sense, because we are working for them and often doing their jobs," Esposito said. "We don't paint naked ladies, or pornography, or social issues or political statements."

The artist's projects involve finding buildings that have been tagged by gangs, ask the building owner for permission to paint it over. The process entertains the neighborhood's residents. In addition, these artists use their own time and materials. And, consider that under each mural is a fresh coat of paint.

Their public artwork was never disturbed, tagged or disrespected by residents -- only city hall.

"Somebody in city hall would paint over (our work) thinking they were doing something good," Esposito said.

Also in this venture, the artists intentionally didn't do cutting edge work; they painted PG often using comic book characters at the core, so as to not intentionally stir up controversy.

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