Oak Harbor VFW building gets flag mural

A New York artist known for patriotic art and political activism created his latest piece at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7392 in Oak Harbor.

Artist Scott LoBaido

A New York artist known for patriotic art and political activism created his latest piece at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7392 in Oak Harbor.

Artist Scott LoBaido is traveling across America painting flag murals at one VFW or American Legion post in each state.

Originally, he planned to stop in Seattle. Nobody there returned his calls, he said.

Instead, he came to Oak Harbor and spent last weekend painting a fluttering flag against the post’s pumphouse wall. LoBaido also painted the iconic black-and-white POW/MIA image on a nearby shed.

“It’s gorgeous,” said Ben Bunnell, a VFW member. “That’s his way of serving. We’re really blessed to have this.”

The murals serve as a backdrop to a newly completed memorial garden and are visible to passersby on Goldie Road.

“This is the smallest flag I’ve painted,” LoBaido said. “But it’s as big as the biggest I’ve painted.”

The self-described patriot addressed a few dozen VFW members at a dedication ceremony at the post Monday morning. LoBaido, 50, resembled an aging hipster with stained jeans, a rumpled plaid shirt and a five o’clock shadow flecked with paint.

He said the tour is his way of giving back to the servicemen and women who allow him to have the freedom to create art as he wishes. In the 1990s, he remembers the New York art scene seemed to disparage anything construed as supportive of the military or patriotism.

That bothered him.

It sparked what he described as a calling to celebrate patriotism through his art and “thank the hell out of all you.”

“People ask me why I do this,” he said. “It’s so I can be a crazy New York City artist and paint what I want.”

In 2006 the artist traveled to all 50 states to paint flags on rooftops. He described the American flag as “the world’s most beautiful work of art” and a powerful symbol that could bring even the toughest man to tears.

LoBaido also creates provocative political pieces, including a painting called “200 mph” in which George W. Bush is a race car driver about to run over the Democratic donkey. Another titled “Have Faith” depicts George W. Bush as George Washington, holding the severed head of Osama bin Laden.

He’s a political activist who once was arrested at the Brooklyn Museum for protesting another artist’s image of the Virgin Mary adorned with elephant dung.

The veterans, however, weren’t concerned with his politics, said post commander Myron Brundage. They’re taking his work at face value: as a heartfelt gift.

The artist doesn’t charge for his flag murals. Corporate and nonprofit sponsors pay for his cross-country, 25,000-mile journey driven in his Suburban — handpainted with the flag and fitted with a steer skull on the hood. His next stop: Post Falls, Idaho.

“Anything that reminds people what warriors do — that’s a good thing,” said Bruno Bechthold, a VFW member.

“For Scott to lend his talents to us … that’s really wonderful.”

 

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