At a triangle of a lot, where Pearl and State meet, in the Old Brooklyn neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio, there is a public library branch. Across the street, on Pearl there is a billboard four times as wide as it is high. It belongs to the artist, and libertarian looney, Russell Sysack. I believe he, himself, has been in business over forty years, the company [Harry X Sysack] longer, perhaps it is a family business. The library has plate glass windows facing the sign, the library places large posters on those windows.
Sysack exercises his art, the first amendment, and a bilious spleen. From time to time he displays a new work. I thought I would photograph his signs for years, I had thought. I had not. To-day, I saw he had put another one up. I thought over the years, people would have posted, on the internet, his previous signs. The current one was posted by a few people, a few other recent ones also, but far fewer than I'd expected. The current one, equating environmentalists with nazism, has made it onto a few, internet, message exchanges. The nazi party flag with a green background is not the first swastika he has painted, it is the first green one. He is not subtle!
He does not like politicians, especially Democrats, especially Edward Kennedy. He noted Teddy's death, earlier this year, yes Teddy is alive. Sysack was just relishing with bated anticipation. He does not like negro politicians, or any negroes, it seems. Many local celebrities he ridicules. The Catholic church, public education, NBC, and others he displays odium for. He does not mind being scatological in caricature or word. He uses vulgarity and obscenity. Occasionally, in the past, local television highlights a new sign. He has many targets. He claims to stand for the ravaged taxpayer, and the beleaguered, small business man. He is very provocative and mean spirited.
I remember one sign was hit with a couple of paintballs, but usually they are left completely alone, without defacement. Once, if I recall, the sign was hit by a vehicle, and once partly torched*. He used the initialism 'H.N.I.C.', and the words spelled out, in regards to two, competing, local, black politicians. That made the television news, a few get more than passerby notice. The racial hatred, he indulges in, is what has unnerved people to complain and retaliate. It seemed for a long time, that, he was intimidated to stop. He came back.
He is a sort of evangelist. Many such nuts paint a vehicle, add speakers and proselytise their propaganda. Some owners of businesses place a sign with their editorial comment for the public to view. This clever fellow's mania is part of his trade. He engages his talent and business practice to spew forth. Are there such individuals in many towns? His theses echo a common script, of many of the angry white people, whom listen to mouthfoamer radio, and cable television. Harry(Russell) and company are more than town cranks, they believe they are powerless patriots and defenders of capitalism.
*one torching came in February 2002, Martin King was pictured with Osama as two type of terrorists. I am a bit vague of the details, someone must have photos.
Postscriptum 9 March 2013: Sysack died late November 2009. To my surprise, he was Catholic. His sister, Nancy, is continuing the family business.