Crazy? Yes, but this also is art!

Estrella Benavides says God is sending her messages and she must paint them on the roof and walls of her Cottage Grove Avenue house and all over her red Honda Civic. Her neighbors don’t care where the messages are coming from; they just want her home restored to its original suburban blandness, and the City of San Mateo agrees. Over the last several months, the City has become more insistent, while Ms. Benavides has become steadily more obdurate and now faces the prospect of criminal charges and perhaps even jail time.

The battle is being waged over the usual issues of public nuisance and free speech, but amidst all the conflict, no one seems to notice the fact that whatever her motivations may be, whatever the neighbors might think, and whatever city ordinances she has violated, Ms. Benavides’ work is art. Really engaging outsider art of the sort that under different circumstances, people would collect and exhibit, and sell for lots of money. And mixed in among her rambling, conspiratorial writings are fragments of strangely evocative zeitgeist haiku that in another context might be considered outlaw poetry.

This story will not have a happy ending, and that is a pity. In a better world, Ms. Benavides would have plenty of paint and plywood, an appreciative audience, and a place to indulge her mad art in peace. Until then, if you happen to be passing through San Mateo, you might want to view her work before it is gone. Just don’t disturb the neighbors…