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STRAAT & Moniker Art Foundation presented:

Moniker, An Origin Story


The subculture of urban art began on the edges of society as far back as the 1920s: fleeing the pressures of post-great-depression America, hobos took to the tracks to embrace simple freedoms, in the process creating a language of tags – or ‘Monikers’ – to communicate and keep the community connected and safe. 


Those themes of rebellion and fringe living have remained as the urban contemporary scene has evolved across the decades: artists operating outside of the status quo, outside of societal norms and often in protest to the injustices of modern society’s failings. In An Origins Story, we delve into the roots of the Moniker movement, tracing its origins from the humble beginnings of the hobo community in the United States to the thriving global urban art scene it is today. This exhibition invited viewers to explore the work of original Moniker artists and the community found within the subculture, shedding light on the influences and inspirations that have shaped this dynamic and expressive art form. 

The exhibition featured a special focus on the work of the most important living artists of the genre, Russell Butler (1943) A.K.A buZ Blurr and his 30+ year friendship with artist and documentary filmmaker Bill Daniel. 

buZ was a visual and conceptual artist famous for his creation of the legendary Colossus of Roads railroad moniker, which he started while working for the Missouri Pacific Railroad in Gurdon, Arkansas and has continued for over 50 years. He called his railroad writing “boxcar icon dispatches” and sees himself as a “life artist documenting a non-art life, employing mass media for the distribution of this documentation.”

The exhibition showcased a diverse range of artwork from artists such as: 

2359, Alquimia Ferrocarrilera, Bill Daniel, Coaltrain, Colossus of Roads, Ed Haskel, Fat Owl, Flangesqueal, I'm Ugly, Khaze, The Kodak Kid, Lamps, Leroy Drown, Milktooth, Mr. Bass, NY Tomato, North Bank Fred, NOVA, POOH. The Rambler, Shrug, Smokin' Joe, The Solo Artist, Stonewall Jim, Swampy, Take 5, Tex Goth, Wooden Axle, Boxo Texino, Conrail Twitty, Herby, Iowa Blackie, J.B. King Esq, Matokie Slaughter, Mud Up, Taurus, El Truncón, Water Bed Lou. 

Through their unique perspectives and artistic voices, these creators pay homage to the spirit of rebellion and the celebration of individuality that has defined the Moniker ethos.

By bringing together a curated selection of artworks and archival content on loan from Massillon Museum, The Ziegler Collection, The Scott Phillps Collection and the personal archives of Bill Daniel and buZ Blurr, The Origins provided a comprehensive view of the Moniker movement, highlighting its significance as a cultural force and a catalyst for social change. This exhibition invited viewers to consider the power of hobo art in fostering a sense of belonging within a community.


The exhibition was curated by Moniker Art director, Tina Ziegler in collaboration with Bill Daniel.  The exhibition was supported by Moniker Foundation, STRAAT Museum, with a special collaboration with Massillon Museum.

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