You’ve probably seen Lush Sux’s artwork all over the internet. The mysterious artist has made a huge name for himself in the past year by painting pop culture-infused murals, with just the right amount troll added to the mix. When Kim Kardashian dropped that bomb on Taylor Swift, Lush created an “In Loving Memory” mural. When Kanye West revealed he would’ve voted for Donald Trump (had he voted), Lush grabbed his tools and painted West in a straight jacket. When Kendall Jenner and Pepsi co-opted the resistance movement to shill soft drinks, Lush painted Jenner as revolutionary icon Che Guevara, wearing a Pepsi beret.
Though he’s Australian and paints most of his work Down Under, Lush Sux keeps up with American politics too. During the election, he painted Donald Trump naked on the side of a two-story building, naming it “The Dongald.” He also painted a topless Melania Trump with the quote, “I’m With Her.” Hillary Clinton was depicted wearing a patriotic monokini.
Not surprisingly, that particular painting received tons of backlash, with Australian authorities threatening to remove the image even though the building’s owner gave the okay. To prevent the inevitable, Lush censored his work by covering up Clinton with a Niqab, a traditional veil worn by Muslim women.
“This is no longer a wall of a supposed ‘offensive, ‘ and near naked Hillary Clinton, it is now a depiction of a beautiful Muslim woman,” Lush said on Instagram after updating the mural. “No reasonable person would consider this offensive. If you do consider it offensive, you are a sexist, racist, Islamophobic, xenophobic, uncultured and ignorant bigot.”
The man is many things; subtle isn’t one of them.
A straight shooter, Lush admits he gets controversial because it’s his viral pieces that bring him the most attention. It’s hard to argue that point every time one of his murals get international media coverage.
“I have been doing shows in galleries since 2010, all over the world from San Francisco to Berlin,” he said last week via phone. “I just happen to mostly post my ‘street’ works because they get a better response online. Canvas work just doesn’t quite capture the same kind of reactions.”
Lush’s popularity has made him a hot commodity, and he currently commands tens of thousands of dollars for his pieces.
“I get bored easy. Right now I’m into viral images and memes. But I prefer landscapes that I get $30,000 to paint on.”
It’s not crazy to be reminded of Banksy when discussing Lush Sux. Both artists remain a mystery, and both have gotten famous by being provocative with their artwork. The two worked together in 2015 when Banksy reached out to Lush for his depressing Dismaland “bemusement park.”
While infamous now, Lush says he’s been creating street art for nearly two decades, joking that “There is an 18-year-old walking the earth that was most likely born on the day I started to do graffiti. How scary.”
The times have surely changed from when Lush Sux first picked up a can of spray paint. Social media wasn’t a thing back then. Now, the platform has given a critical voice to the otherwise voiceless. It’s a double-edged sword for the artist, who admits critics fuel him. “I just steal from it and make bank.”
Lush Sux’s most controversial pieces are usually short-lived anyway, as most of them are removed. Not surprisingly, local governments are pretty mixed on the provocateur.
“I never remove a piece myself it always ends up being the council or some angry shitheel hero who decides to ruin it for everyone,” Lush says.
On the bright side, at least he won’t have to worry about passing his murals years later. Like most creatives, Lush Sux isn’t a fan of the work he’s done. Not even the Harambe mural dedicated to the “sweet prince” shot and killed in 2015.
“[I] usually [like] whatever piece I did last that worked. But for the most part, I end up disliking all my work.”
Such is the life of a 2017 artist — Always pushing for the next thing, just the second a funny meme drops.