When Artistic License Results in Vandalism

October 22 is an inauspicious date.

It was exactly one year ago today that I wrote a post entitled Vandalism in the Backcountry, detailing the story of three Boy Scout leaders who toppled an iconic rock in Goblin Valley State Park in Utah. They tried to pass it off as a “safety concern” but in reality, it was idiocy and ignorance.

Sadly, vandalism in the backcountry is still alive and well one year later.

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Zion National Park, as per her Tumblr

My friend Rebecca from Calipidder alerted me to Instagram user Casey Nocket of @CreepyTings. I’d link to her account, but it has since become private. No surprise there, but unfortunately, she failed to acknowledge that the internet does not forget.

{Neither does my phone which was still open to her IG account for a few screen grabs!}

Casey is a talented New York artist who spent the last few weeks road tripping the American southwest to enjoy the beauty of our natural world. However, instead of hiking and snapping a couple photos, Casey took it upon herself to invoke artistic license upon the scenery with graffiti.

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Death Valley’s Telescope Peak.

And for the record, it’s not water color paint or chalk or anything else that’s easily removable.

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Clearly, Casey knows what she is doing is wrong. She simply doesn’t care. Perhaps she thinks it’s funny that she “is bad” as she explains in her glib IG response to a follower?

Regardless, this entire story made me incredibly sad. Casey’s viewpoint on the world is so myopic that I can barely stand it. Does she truly think that everyone else wants to see her artwork on the stones and viewpoints of our national parks? Is she so entitled that she does not realize the world is about more than her? Does she believe she is enhancing these outdoor wonders? My questions go on for days.

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Canyonlands

Since Casey comes from New York, there is a small part of me that wonders whether her city girl mentality even realizes how wrong her actions are. But, I refuse to push that ignorance on anyone. I was not able to screen grab the conversation, but there is one photo where her mother is praising her for her talent and telling her how proud she is of her daughter. Is this real life?!

By the dozens of followers that “like” her photos, I’m guessing there are plenty of people out there who still consider this artwork rather than vandalism. Sadly for her, the rest of the world disagrees, and apparently Reddit caught wind of her vandalism yesterday. I just took a quick peek but a Yosemite National Park investigator is on the case. With the clear-cut trail she left via social media, I’m sure she will be busted rather quickly.

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Crater Lake in Oregon. Snagged this from her IG account before it was private

I don’t wish Casey any harm, and I dislike a lot of the immediate outcry suggesting violence or name calling. She may be selfish and egotistical, but threatening to “kick her in the gonads” or “donate to a bounty on her head” is a bit much. I’ve seen others sharing her personal FB page so that everyone can flood her with hatred, and I can’t condone that. While I clearly despise her actions, I can’t participate in an outcry of violence. What does that solve?

 

UPDATE: I just learned that the National Park Service put out a press release regarding the vandalism. If you’re curious, take a look here.

UPDATE TWO: A few readers gave me the heads up that Nocket has jumped back on her Tumblr account to defend herself. While I’ve tried my best to sympathize with her, her updated site is making it pretty damn difficult….especially when she proclaims that her next project will be defacing tombstones in cemeteries.

UPDATE THREE: Guys, I just saw someone created a Twitter handle for Creepy_Tings. That said, the creator took it upon himself to post Casey Nocket’s address online in an effort to encourage “justice.” Please don’t go all vigilante on this and let the authorities deal with it. If you want to help, donate to the NPS or enjoy a hike outside!

UPDATE FOUR: According to TrailMob, a relative of Nocket has been contacted. This family member said that Casey is fully cooperating with authorities, feels terrible for her actions, is ready to face the music, and has deleted all social media accounts. This would mean the reactivated Tumblr, IG, etc are all frauds. 

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Sound off: thoughts?

 

41 Comments

  • Reply Carla at

    I dont get it at all.
    I wonder if you ARE right with the city vs country mentality?
    for this old lady 🙂 it just seem to be….rude.

  • Reply RFC at

    🙁 It saddens me how many people can’t see the amazing beauty and artwork that IS nature. No enhancements needed.

  • Reply misszippy at

    Really well said, Heather. Such a sad act and I’ve gotta say, such a dumb thing to share on social media–she had to know she’d get caught? Anyhow, I also agree that there’s no solving anything with calls for retaliation. But let’s hope others learn a lesson from this.

    • Reply heather at

      That’s why I attribute a lot of it to narcissism or naivety. Social media is like wildfire– getting caught was inevitable.

  • Reply Rachel @ Betty LIVIN at

    I don’t know why she felt the need to make her paintings permanent! I’m all for being creative and artistic, but she could have done those same sketches in chalk and they would have washed away after a rain. To me that seems like an easy compromise. I agree that it’s her city girl mentality. No farmer would ever appreciate a barn or grainery being tagged!

    • Reply heather at

      It would be better…although I still vote for the respectful “don’t touch it” option 🙂

  • Reply Kovas - Midwest Multisport Life at

    Part of the point of graffiti art is to do it where it doesn’t belong, cultural vandalism perhaps. This might be an attention-grabbing attempt to further her art career. Who knows?

    • Reply heather at

      I did notice her tag on the Tumblr photo above: leave your mark. I’m sure that’s a graffiti thing, but I think she took it a bit literally.

  • Reply Elle at

    Not only disgraceful, but sad, I think. My building supervisor says ‘there is no fixing stupid’…

  • Reply Bernard at

    Found this piece of backcountry artwork near a camp site in the South San Juan Wilderness last year, and found it to be appropriate: https://www.flickr.com/photos/51594552@N05/9725079115/in/set-72157635488567078

    Casey needs to learn the principles of leave no trace.

    • Reply heather at

      Haha I can handle that artwork! 🙂

  • Reply Alyssa at

    It is amazing how people just lack common sense AND then provide picture proof of this on social media! I completely disagree on the city mentality thing. Those of us who live in cities may prefer happy hour to mountain climbing but that doesn’t mean we all lack respect for the outdoors. One person’s bad choices shouldn’t create negative generalizations for a large group.

    • Reply heather at

      I’m glad you said that– it was a fleeting thought in my mind but like I wrote, I would never want to push that type of general ignorance on people when I KNOW many (like you) don’t think that way. It’s just so frustrating. I’m even getting frustrated reading it again today! 🙂

    • Reply heather at

      Ok. I’m back 🙂 A friend on FB left an interesting comment re: the “city mentality” statement and it’s an interesting take on what I said: “Big cities like New York are entirely man made; the environment is constructed via human imposition. Private space is at a premium, so people grow to ignore others and behave like they are in their own space, by you know, singing loudly with headphones on in the subway and stuff. People mark the city as a way to claim space, I think.

      So, I think she knows that she ought not to do what she is doing, but doesn’t know that the change in context has so drastically increased the egregiousness of her violation.”

      Thoughts?

      • Reply Last Adventurer at

        I’ve lived in big cities and the country. I think it just boils down to knowing right from wrong.

        For example, I wouldn’t graffiti a subway tube in London, or a McDonalds front in NYC anymore than I would a rock in a public park, or the side of someone’s barn.

        Seems pretty common sensical to me.

        • Reply heather at

          I definitely agree with you. I did see some reactions around the web that were similar to, “It’s just a rock….she essentially painted rocks. What’s the big deal?” It was those responses that got my head whirling!

      • Reply Commonplace Wayfarer at

        I actually don’t mind a lot of the graffiti I encounter in large cities for the reasons your friend mentioned. Also, sometimes it can be quite beautiful. Especially in places where the construction is more practical than artistic. However, what @creepytings did is extremely upsetting, disrespectful and thoughtless. Her statements about loving the beauty out here make it even more so. She loved the beauty then damaged it for the next wanderer. I also was unimpressed by her “I dun f***ed uuuuuuupppp” tumblr post. That is not the response of someone who has realized the negative effect they have had. On places we are all meant to try to protect.

      • Reply ny at

        Information has been released about where in NY she is from, and is not the big city. It’s a small town in the scenic Hudson Valley near a major rock climbing destination. I think you are going to have to blame this one on the individual and not on “city folk”

  • Reply Erin @ Her Heartland Soul at

    I had no idea this was happening! I’m all for art appreciation but I do not want to be seeing her drawings when I go to visit a national park. That’s what art galleries and museums are for…

  • Reply Michael Barton at

    People should not wish violence on her, but I do wish the park service investigates and prosecutes her.

  • Reply Beth at

    The Goblin Valley mess was the first thing I thought of when I heard about this!

    Those guys had to pay $925 each in court fees and split $1,500 in “investigative costs” (determining how much damage they did to the irreplaceable hoodoo). It seems there might have been some restitution that was to fund signs in Goblin Valley as well… Which, all things considered, is probably about right as much as I would have liked for them to do some jail time (just a week? to think about what you did? a lot?). Hopefully she gets at least that much. I think the outrage (maybe even the bits that go too far) will show the prosecuting attorney that people DO want their resources protected.

    • Reply heather at

      The Goblin Valley situation left me completely filled with rage. I’m almost glad there isn’t a video of this current issue because I’m not sure I could handle it!

  • Reply Joan Sommerfield at

    Thank you so very much for sharing this. I don’t know whether to be angry or just saddened. Neither does anything effective, but we all can make certain that we educate those around us by example and by teaching those who will listen. In situations like these I strongly feel that
    bringing people to ‘justice’ through fines or incarceration does little to bring effective change…..most of the time. Rather, it seems that a far more life altering justice is through restitution. In this case by having to personally remove and/or repair anything that they done to deface these public lands. By having to work out their punishment in the elements, it would take a good deal longer to clean it up than it did to make the mess in the first place. It would have to be supervised and would give them some extensive time to really think through their actions.

    Perhaps if more crimes of varying kinds were handled this way there would not be as many repeat offenders, the need for prisons might lessen, and taxes could be spent in a more effective manner.

    (There are things that actually will remove this paint and if used with care, would do limited harm.)

    • Reply heather at

      I imagine she’ll end up with both fines and community service, but maybe cleaning up her own crimes would be the best. I’m honestly not sure (thank goodness I didn’t become a judge!) but I do hope she learns why it was wrong. More than anything, that should be the takeaway.

  • Reply Last Adventurer at

    Heather, I always enjoy reading your blog, and your perspective on things. However, when I read this part of your post, I cringed:

    “Casey is a talented New York artist who spent the last few weeks road tripping the American southwest…”

    Frankly, I kind of wish you hadn’t gone there, as art is a very subjective thing. Moreover, irrespective of whether she is talented or not (which is a matter of personal opinion), the truth of the matter is that it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if she were Van Gogh, or Banksy, or anyone else. She decided to break the law on numerous occasions by painting – with acrylic paints, a toxic and non-biodegradable substance in multiple National Parks. That is the issue – the painting in and on protected areas – not whether she is “talented” or not. I feel there is a bit of an implication there that since she is “talented” or an “artist”, what she did was somewhat ok as she was “expressing herself”. (Which seems to me close to the justification the perpetrator gave). I just don’t feel the issue of talent comes into this at all – but perhaps that’s just me reading too much into your comment. 🙂

    With respect to the second part, of the social media mentality, what I have to say is this. As a former Ranger, I had many citations that I issued that sometimes were reduced or overturned. At first this bothered me greatly, but then I realized that is how our justice system works. I think most people are forgetting that in cases of crimes, or purported crimes, every American (which she is) is entitled to a presumption of innocence (the infamous “innocent until proven guilty” mantra). While there appears to be a plethora of admissible evidence here, and there appears to be a strong likelihood that she will be convicted, the fact remains, she has yet to be charged with a crime – or convicted of one. This is a key point – after all, we are a nation of laws, and under those laws, at this point in time, she is an innocent party – under the law. This is not to say I agree with what she did, or condone what she did, or even personally like what she did, or that I do not have personal problems with it (which I do). What I am saying is that this issue is in the purview of the Courts and the Justice system, and they will resolve this problem – which is the way our system is meant to work. Mob rule; mob justice; and the mob mentality of “an eye for an eye” are emblematic of failed states, extreme causes, and other countries that no one admires. I don’t think anyone does themselves credit here by acting in an extreme way, such as posting her personal information, and encouraging others to comment in it. Such behavior is dare I say it, no better than what she did, and does not benefit anyone.

    Look, I get it: these are our sacred cows of the outdoors community. No one gets it better than me – but to act in a way that shows a lack of respect for what those sacred cows themselves stand for is not the way to pursue this. Just my .02.

    • Reply heather at

      I get your point and I’ve had a few people dislike that I called her talented (and a couple thank me…go figure!) But truthfully, that was a conscious decision. I actually went back and edited my post to read as such earlier this morning after I saw the absolutely horrifying comments being made about the girl. Is what she did wrong? Absolutely. Does it make me sick? Definitely. Do I hope she is punished? Yes. Does talent even come into play here? Like you said, no, unless you include that as the rationale behind her painting spree. But social media seems to have taken it a bit too far by personally ridiculing both her and her mother. It bothered me so much that I felt I needed to extend a semblance of an olive branch in my own small way. But I do agree to your latter point: mob mentality doesn’t solve anything. I daresay she has learned her lesson through this public outcry alone, let alone through the legal ramifications that are so clearly headed in her direction.

  • Reply Krista at

    She is right on one account, she is a bad person. People like this who think they can infringe on other people’s experience like that in the outdoors make me so angry! She is lucky I never came across her disfiguring nature like that. People like her make me want to confine them to their city and they are never allowed to leave. They don’t deserve to experience nature like more respectful people. She or her horrible mother better pay a lot of money. Those idiots in Utah got away without paying nearly enough. They should also have to perform community service in the parks for a long time.

  • Reply Laura at

    To me there is a huge difference between the idiots at Goblin Valley and this girl. As someone who’s new to Colorado (and new to outdoor adventures/LNT), I can see why she might think that there isn’t anything wrong with “decorating”. I probably would not have thought much about it if I had come across one of her paintings when I first moved here, since they do seem to be more “artistic” than pure “graffiti” (e.g., someone’s name, a gang sign, etc). If you don’t live in an area where many people are outdoorsy, you just don’t know about LNT… or you think of it as just applying to whether you leave your trash behind at a campsite, vs all the other implications. Of course, now that I have lived in Colorado and had it explained to me, I understand why its wrong, but I think there has to be at least a little bit tolerance for ignorance if people just honestly don’t realize why what they are doing is wrong.

    That said, I think it’s terrible that it seems from the comments like it’s been explained to her that it’s wrong, and she still isn’t changing. THAT is where the limits of giving someone the benefit of the doubt end, and where I’m completely on the side of the Redditors who want her to pay for it (although of course I don’t condone violence). Her attitude about it is really terrible, and I think it’s good that people are up in arms. Maybe if the media around it gets big enough it will teach others about LNT? That’s one positive outcome I could see coming out of it.

  • Reply Chris at

    While it’s easy to be upset about the vandalism, I think the response of the public can illustrate some important ideas. Whether you view the works as graffiti or art, it doesn’t really matter since they exist in areas that we’ve formerly agreed to keep wild. I get just as upset when I see broken glass, cans, and other trash laying around on public lands. I suppose trash can be easily removed and this artist has created something more permanent. However, the discussion really shows how many people are affected by poor use of our shared lands. We all should respect the folks who come after us whether it means spending a couple more minutes cleaning up camp or just simply saving the paintbrushes for later.

  • Reply Stacey at

    Ugh. So sad, and frustrating. As a professional artist myself, who makes a living trying to make the world a slightly more beautiful place, this entire story makes me cringe. Not only is she defacing the pristine public lands which serve as inspiration to me and millions of others, she is also making a mockery of my profession. There is a facet of the art world in NYC that does indeed feed off of shock and publicity, but it has no place in the wilderness. Someone above commented that maybe she was trying to get publicity to kick start her art career, and that sort of thing is embarrassing to me, as an artist. Know that there are a lot of us out there who make a living as artists without having to do outrageous things, who instead rely on hard work and skill, and good business sense. I wish instead of doing this, she would have set up a paintbox out there and painted the beauty that she saw.

  • Reply N at

    talented artist? Neither of those words are proper descriptors of this selfish asshole. If she was either of those things she would not have done what she did.

  • Reply Alex at

    It’s too sad. One person thinks they are so important and special that they need to ruin some of the last places that are supposed to be “pristine” or as close to it. She needs to stick to defacing walls.

  • Reply Christy@ My Dirt Road Anthem at

    I think her lack of respect is sad and says a lot about how she is raised. I think so many people are now raised in an environment that is so far removed from nature and their food sources that they have no idea what really goes on or how they should act.
    My kids won’t even spit their gum out outside because it is littering. I have passed on my hatred of littering and disrespect for the outdoors on to them 🙂

  • Reply Melissa @ Freeing Imperfections at

    WOW I haven’t been to your blog in a while because it’s totally different now. Looks great!

    This is pretty bad. I remember going to places in Utah where they slogan is “don’t bust the crust,” meaning, don’t walk on the super old rock moss that takes years to develop and ruins the ecosystem when trampled on. I can’t imagine putting acrylic on anything in nature…

  • Reply Heidi @BananaBuzzbomb at

    Not sure if it’s so much of the ‘city girl’ thing. And if it is I don’t think it’s out of ignorance and that she doesn’t care, but only wonder if she was just setting out to make her mark and make something beautiful without the real knowledge that it’s illegal….not out of disrespect. I’m sure some people would say, “Well, she’s being blatantly disrespectful from the comments she’s made…so she is a disrespectful person.” Maybe her response has been on the defensive since it’s seems as though people have blasted her from the get-go? I dunno.

    Am I a fan of it? No, yet I keep seeing reference to calling her selfish and how she was poorly raised. Selfish? As humans we darn near are all selfish….in some way or form….even if we don’t realize it. And blasting how she was raised? This is one tiny insight into her vast life…we have no clue about her or her family.

    I don’t have the answer and to be perfectly clear I’m surely NOT trying to defend her, but you know me, two sides to every story and trying to take a different view on the situation.

  • Reply EC at

    I see a lot of people making comments about this person being from New York City and that has something to do with this entire episode. She’s not from NYC, she’s from a town in the Catskills north of NYC. I’m familiar with the area and have been hiking in that area. I also seen some posts on other sites that people in that area say they have seen graffiti which is similar on popular hiking trails in that area.

    This isn’t a city vs. rural thing.

  • Reply Michael at

    Get ready for more. For years graffiti ” artists ” have been saying what they do is art not vandalism. They are supported in this by people from all walks of life. People who should really know better. The person who did this is not an artist, she is a vandal. She is a criminal. I am proud of your role in outing this person and hope that others will learn that there is a place for art and this is not art. Until the art world takes a stand against this sort of thing it will only continue.

  • Reply Kayla @ kpLOVINGit at

    I just thought the exact same thing when some people I know just recently went to Colorado to get married and carved their names really big in the trunk of a tree. Imagine if everyone thought they needed their names on a tree………..Then I saw someone picking the flowers at the Arboretum for themselves and I thought…..geez….If everyone picked a damn flower that came to the Arboretum, there’d be none left to look at!!!

    There are so many people that just think about their own immediate gratifications.

  • Reply MT at

    First, the reactivated Tumbr account probably isn’t really her. Second, if you spend your whole life being told by your Mom what a pretty, smart, creative girl you are — right up to affirming your newest act of vandalism — it’s no wonder you grow up self-centered. She’s 100% responsible, no doubt, but her mother is part of the root of it.

    • Reply heather at

      A few people have pointed out that Tumblr idea to me and I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t even think of that, but you all may be right. It seems so blatantly defensive that I would love to believe that someone else is causing trouble rather that Nocket saying those things.

  • Reply Interneteresting- Vol. 3 at

    […] This story, that I first read on my friend Heather’s blog, has been on my mind a lot lately.  If you are submersed in the world of hiking, trail running, or […]

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