Photograph by Lydia DePillis
The District has an unfortunate number of vacant buildings, but it is blessed with a small corps of wheatpasters, who adorn them with eccentric Pop-style pictures that can be far more interesting than your average tags. One of the most widely disseminated images appears to be a portrait framing a somber man of indeterminate age, who stares directly ahead through large circular glasses; a bowler hat and high collar complete the vaguely Victorian ensemble. The impressive part is the distribution: The artist has deployed the image all around the city, on telephone booths and boarded-up windows, as well as via small stickers attached to free newspapers. Curious, I tried to track down the mysterious wheatpaster, and I started with his colleagues. DIABETIK—the artist responsible for the Peeps and candy hearts that also speckle many District buildings—didn’t know, but directed me to DECOY. She asked around and found out the image was a self-portrait by a man named Steven, who is associated with the Dandies and Quaintrelles crowd, arbiters of the yearly Tweed Ride (fitting!). Getting ever closer, I asked Eric Channing Brewer, who organizes those antiquarian bike trips, if he knew my paster. The next morning, a rolled-up piece of paper with my name typed on it arrived at Washington City Paper
’s front desk—a print of the portrait, in purple. I can understand when someone doesn’t want to be found, and in this case, it’s a desire I can respect.