On Saturday street art photographer Martha Cooper, who has been shooting graffiti for decades and become the art form’s most beloved and intrepid documentarian, arrived at the corner of Houston Street and Bowery to photograph what she assumed would be the latest mural at the site, only to be faced with a billboard-sized birthday surprise: For her 70th birthday, street art twins How and Nosm — whose work had graced the wall since last November — masked their work with the photog’s nickname, “Marty,” and invited fellow artists Faust, Freedom, Terror 161, Bio, Daze, Lady Pink, Free5, Crash, and Lady Aiko (another alum of the site) to fill the two-story letters. The result (click above image for high-res version) is a splendid tribute.
Between the T and Y of the mural — which will only be up for a few more days before it’s painted over by the next artist in line for the space — a tag reads “Happy Birthday Martha Cooper” (above). Further to the right a rhyming message (below) praises her work for immortalizing the ephemeral art of graffiti writers and street artists all over the city and the world. “From the streets of the world to the 2s and 5s,” it reads, “thanks to you our work survives.”
Cooper, who, according to Brooklyn Street Art, arrived at the scene Saturday accompanied by the mural space’s organizer Meghan Coleman completely unaware of the celebration, camera in hand. “I can’t believe it,” she told BSA. “I never expected this, ever.” The shock quickly subsided and instinct kicked in, and amid well-wishers and birthday chants, she started photographing the new mural made in her honor.
— Benjamin Sutton
(Photos by the author.)