Artist agrees to replace controversial Allston mural

The mural that drew complaints.
Bos:311/City of Boston app
The mural that drew complaints.

A graffiti artist whose mural in Allston led to several complaints to city officials this week said he is redoing the artwork to appease the community.

“MerkThose,” as the artist is known, told the Globe in a telephone interview that people took what he painted “out of context,” but said he would remove the image and replace it with something else entirely. He declined to give his real name.

On Monday, MerkThose and a second artist painted a large mural of a black woman — one leg in the air — stroking a cat that was sitting on her lap, its tongue hanging slightly out of its mouth.


Behind the woman and the orange cat were a pack of dead rats, a reference to Allston’s somewhat unwelcome nickname “Allston Rat City.” A rat dressed like a grim reaper was also pictured in the mural, as were live rats at the bottom of the painting.

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“I paint pretty ladies, that’s just the characters that I paint,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to hurt anyone’s feelings. . . . I don’t think it was anything crazy.”

But at least five complaints were lodged through the city’s BOS:311 app this week after the painting appeared on the building in Allston, at the intersection of Cambridge and Linden streets.

“Overtly sexual and misogynistic street art (the top part) by @MerkThose is offensive and demeaning to women,” someone wrote in one complaint on Wednesday.

An earlier complaint read: “Highly inappropriate mural. While it’s very well done it is not what we want to expose our kids to. Please have this removed or painted over with something else.”


Others said it “perpetuates racist stereotypes.”

MerkThose was one of 10 artists who painted on the building’s wall, he said.

Universal Hub first reported on the grievances.

The piece was not done by the Mayor’s Mural Crew, and the city had no involvement in its creation. Officials were working with Allston Village Main Streets, who has been in touch with the building owner, to ensure the piece is removed.

MerkThose, who has artwork in other parts of Boston, as well as around the world, said he secured the space on the wall of the building through Avenue of Arts, which describes itself as “a loose collective” of creative types who strive to provide “a space for artists and designers to work together.”


The group, which turned an abandoned house in Jamaica Plain into a vibrant outdoor work of art last year, has a contract with a realty company in the area. The company provides the group with space to use as canvasses.

MerkThose, who was at the scene of the controversial mural on Wednesday, said he didn’t want to bring a bad name to the group because of the gripes about his artwork.

“My buddies, they work really hard to get different walls around the city for local painters to come and do their thing, and I just didn’t want any bad blood on them,” he said. “I feel people misunderstood what I was painting and I don’t want that to come back on them.”

MerkThose, who is currently working on a commissioned piece in the heart of Dudley Square with 17 other artists, said the new mural in Allston will depict Koko the Gorilla and her pet cat, a vision that came from watching a YouTube video.

“I’m going to go twice as big,” he said.

Steve Annear can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.