CODY, WYO. — Early Saturday afternoon, as Scott LoBaido toiled away at putting some fresh paint on the exterior of the Veterans of Foreign Wars post 2673, a local house painter pulled his truck into the parking lot and offered his approval and encouragement.
LoBaido’s tools were nothing special—a ladder and a standard paint roller. But his deft, measured strokes drew a steady stream of new admirers who wanted to chat, snap photos and learn more about the project.
Painting with a speed and ease that made his work look deceptively easy, LoBaido was creating a giant American flag mural that covered a huge section of the VFW’s front wall facing 12th street.
The mural is the 17th American flag LoBaido has painted on a VFW post, as he makes his way across the country on a six-month trip to create a new mural on a veterans’ post in each of the 50 states.
“I’ve painted thousands of flags, and everyone turns out just as cool, and I’m just as passionate about it as the first one I ever painted,” said LoBaido, an artist from Staten Island, N.Y. who has enjoyed widespread acclaim by painting big flags in large and small towns across the country.
“It’s the most recognizable work of art in the world, and it always evokes an emotional response,” he said of Old Glory.
LoBaido has loved painting flags since the 1990s, but said his “phone really started ringing off the hook after 9/11.”
A few years ago, he toured the country, painting American flags on roofs in all 50 states, including a 3.5-acre factory rooftop in Houston, a work LoBaido says is the world’s largest flag mural.
His current tour is a way to “thank the veterans for fighting for my freedom and my First Amendment right to express myself.”
That self-expression isn’t always channeled through flag murals. LoBaido also sculpts and paints surrealist images. He has created paintings in his home state that have made headlines for political messages like a stance against former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s short-lived ban on super-sized sodas.
But LoBaido’s flags are anything but political, he said.
“I’m trying to reach the younger generation, which is visually oriented, to let them know this is our flag. It belongs to all of us. It’s more than something that’s about politics or corporate images,” LoBaido said.
Each mural is different, but most offer a rich, three-dimensional appearance achieved from an adept technique of layering just a few simple colors. They range in size from 10 feet to more than 40 feet across.
LoBaido has spent months scouting locations, including using Google street view to check out buildings online. Logistics also require lining up advance permissions and permits, a process made easier through the help of many friends around the country who are veterans, he said.
After completing murals in Alaska, Arizona, Utah and many southern states, his next stop is in Billings, Mont. before continuing on to the Dakotas.
Though he has sponsors who help cover the cost of supplies and travel, LoBaido said he doesn’t profit from his effort—at least not financially.
He does get a kick out of giving something back to veterans and their families, and he likes knowing his paintings will remain for years on buildings across the country.
“This is our flag,” he said. “We have to celebrate it.”
Contact Ruffin Prevost at 307-213-9818 or [email protected].