The monolith isn't the only artistic mystery floating around these days. On Dec. 1, artist Joshua Hawkins proudly thanked the team that helped him paint a huge Cookie Monster mural on the side of a vacant building in Peoria, Ill., which he'd been commissioned to create at the building owner's request. Days later, however, Hawkins was back on Facebook, posting that "something insane is going on with this mural." Per the New York Times, he'd received a surprise phone call from Nate Comte, the building's owner—and Comte was furious. He says he hadn't commissioned the 15-by-30-foot artwork. Hawkins, who tells WMBD it took his 10-person crew three days to paint it, says Comte immediately covered the mural with white paint and initially told Hawkins he was going to call the cops, even though Hawkins told him he honestly thought he'd been recruited by Comte.
Hawkins' side of things: He says he was approached by a tall, dark-haired man claiming he was Comte who paid him a lot of cash upfront to paint a mural featuring the Russian words for "peace, land, and cookies." "I thought he was opening a bakery," Hawkins says. After the mural was done, Hawkins says he tried to contact "Nate" to see it but got no reply. Per Artnet, not all locals are happy that Comte whitewashed Hawkins' work: The wall has become a pilgrimage site, with visitors leaving flowers, stuffed animals, and even a picture of Cookie Monster with the hashtag #fakenateforever. Meanwhile, Comte has launched a "Graffiti Mural Replacement" page on Facebook, seeking a new mural to adorn the side of his building. "Nothing about this is going well," a still-irritated Comte tells the Journal Star. "I'm told that's because I'm one of those stubborn kind of guys that thinks as long as he owns a building he'd like to have some say in what gets painted on it." (Read more Cookie Monster stories.)