The Mystery Behind This Cookie Monster Mural

For a moment forget those silver monoliths that have been cropping up in Utah, California, Romania, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, and most recently Compton Beach on the Isle of Wight. Forget that the installer of the first monument might have been wittily mocking those who would encircle it in awe like the proto-humans from 2001: A Space Odyssey (while posing for selfies). Forget that those who've followed suit installing other monoliths might be engaging in a game of follow-the-leader trolling. Forget that in an age of slavish devotion to groundless, lunatic conspiracy theories like QAnon, we, as a human race, have been brought to heel by the embrasure of absolute fabrication as fact. 

No, forget all that. Forget it all. It's time for cookies. Cookies and Sesame Street street art. Or, in the words of one "Nate Comte," it's time for "Peace, Land, Cookies." Yes, it's revolution time, people.

Or at least, it was revolution time, for about a week, in Peoria, Illinois. The leader of the charge, as Gizmodo recounts, was Cookie Monster himself, painted on a street mural in a Bolshevik pastiche, radiance beaming from his upheld cookie, his slogan in Russian underneath: "мир, земля, печенье" ("Peace, Land, Cookies"). While the owner of Peoria Pedicab, LLC, was out of town on Thanksgiving, baking's finest connoisseur appeared on the wall of his business. And when he, the real Nate Comte, got home, he called the artist responsible, saying:

"Are you the one that painted my f*****' building?"

A practical joke in the form of absurd satire

Joshua Hawkins, the artist, didn't know how to respond. He'd been paid in cash by Nate, calling it, as the Journal Star says, "one of the best paying commissions I've ever had." It had taken three days, with 10 other people, from Friday through Sunday, because Nate had "wanted it done quickly." And now, Nate was calling him and asking, as Hawkins states in the NY Post, "why the hell I painted this 'crazy s***' on his building."

Admittedly, when Hawkins had been commission to paint the mural, he thought it was a "little bit weird," as stated by 25 News, especially given the work's imitation of 1917's October Revolution slogan, when Tsarist Russia turned into the USSR, per Russian Life. But the pay was good, and Hawkins also didn't mind "Peoria having a bit more of a weird art scene."   

"I was hired to paint it. I thought [the call] was just a prank. I thought that this guy calling me was just messing with me or something. Then I kind of realized, no, he's threatening to press charges with cops and stuff."

As it turns out, an impostor "Nate Comte" had reached out to Hawkins on Facebook, saying that he'd met Hawkins a year prior at an art gallery. He'd passed along the artwork he wanted painted as a mural on the building, and presto: a politically artistic non-message perfectly satirizing the absurd over-codification of our time.

Cookie Monster: shortening-filled icon of the revolution

As of December 7, it appears that the mural at 1301 NE Jefferson Ave. has been completely painted over, leaving a stark white rectangle blanking out Cookie Monster's short-lived, shortening-filled rebellion. The fattening fire has been fanned, though, leaving the real Nate Comte the recipient of anti-anti-Cookie Monster backlash. 

"It wasn't a mural. It was graffiti," actual Comte said. "Now I'm the evil Grinch and getting hate mail."

Hawkins chimed in: "I'm still kind of confused about the whole thing," adding on Facebook, "THIS IS INSANE." 

Hawkins admits that he should have asked more questions of "Nate," who disappeared after the mural was completed, and hasn't been able to be reached at the number he gave. For his part, Comte has refused to press charges for vandalism, although he criticized Hawkins, saying, "I don't think anyone is that stupid." 

Before becoming a newly revived pop-culture subject, Cookie Monster engaged in a bit of criticism of his own, of the artistic kind, no less. As ArtNews shows, in 2015 Mr. Monster perused the Guggenheim in New York City, providing insight into works. Upon reaching one of Paul Cézanne's still life pictures, he sagely intoned, "Me see yummy fruits and veggies in dis Cézanne!!! Me try so hard not to eat."

Is there a connection between this and the wall mural? We think not.