OPINION | PAPER TRAILS Artist left his mark on North Little Rock hotel room

A North Little Rock hotel was apparently T-Banged last summer.

That's OK to say in the paper, right? I mean, we are talking about art.

On July 31, Santa Fe artist Terrell Powell spent the night at the Holiday Inn Express in North Little Rock. As usual, Powell had his acrylic paints and brushes with him. Instead of zoning out in front of the TV, Powell, also known as T Bang, got to work. In an interview last week, the 62-year-old artist says that he removed the generic print hanging on the hotel room wall and painted a big-eyed owl holding a rainbow-colored jump rope over it. He then put the newly modified piece, signed T Bang!, back on the wall.

"It was just some ugly, abstract thing that needed a T Bang on it," he says with a laugh.

Powell began revising hotel-room art about 10 years ago while traveling the art show circuit. He takes dull, mass-produced wall pictures and adds his own twist, like the landscape transformed by an angler snagging a gigantic fish from a stream, or a stoned-looking bunny painted over a weird abstract.

"I feel like I've done a public service to enhance them," Powell says.

Powell, who was featured last month in a Wall Street Journal article, grew up in West Columbia, Texas. After college he lived in Austin and spent two decades working as an illustrator and also taught art at a community college. He and his wife, Pat Phifer, moved to Santa Fe about four years ago. His original works -- vibrant, whimsical paintings and sculptures -- can sell for up to $25,000 and now his hotel art is a part of his practice. A documentary, "Your Hotel Has Been T-Banged," is on YouTube and he's on a quest to modify hotel room art in every state for a book project.

"The whole thing started as a joke and just grew," he says.

Powell sent me the image he says he painted in North Little Rock and I visited the hotel to see if his happy owl was still there. Alas, though I wasn't allowed into the room, the kind and helpful woman at the front desk -- who remembered checking Powell in last summer -- took a look for me and said the painting was gone.

Perhaps management took it down, or another guest swiped it.

Hotel staff and art lovers should be on the lookout, though. Powell says in a text that he will return to Arkansas in the spring to "T Bang it up big time ... !"

email: sclancy@adgnewsroom.com