Vancouver artist Jesse Corcoran says he likes creating simple images that convey real meaning.
But after Corcoran painted a parody of the Olympic rings on a mural outside a Downtown Eastside art gallery, the city ordered its removal for violating the graffiti bylaw.
The owner of the Crying Room gallery, Colleen Haslin, complied with the city's demand. The painting was up for nearly two months before it came down on November 16.
In a phone interview with the Georgia Straight, Corcoran noted that Heslin was never told to remove other pieces of art that graced the outside of her gallery.
"She has had 30 murals up there, and none of them ever had any issue," he said. "The city likes to say it's not about the content. I think it's pretty evident that it was."
Corcoran said the point of the painting was to show that a lot of people who live in Vancouver are unhappy about the Olympics.
"It's for people who have money, and who can afford to go to Vancouver and pay to go to the Olympic gold-medal hockey match," Corcoran added. "This other group, meanwhile, is very unhappy and suffering."
Corcoran works in a homeless shelter in the Downtown Eastside. He said it troubles him that marginalized people in the neighbourhood are suffering so greatly while governments are throwing huge sums of money at a sporting event.
"A lot of the folks have HIV and hepatitis, and are super-mentally ill," Corcoran said. "They're addicted to hard drugs. Their suffering is not being addressed, but we can find the money to spend—$900 million, or whatever the latest figure is—on security for an event. I just feel the money would go so far for not just housing, but supported housing."
He also called for more spending on programs. Even if this money doesn't turn homeless people's lives around, Corcoran said it would ease their suffering.
"I think that we're sacrificing the happiness of this marginalized population which, in this neighbourhood, outnumbers the people who could afford to go to an event like that," Corcoran said. "Basically, the happiness of this one minority is sort of at the expense of the majority."