Graffiti Writer Wayne ‘Stay High 149′ Roberts Dead at 61
Seminal graffiti artist Wayne Roberts, better known as "Stay High 149," the tag he painted on New York City subway cars throughout the early '70s, died yesterday (June 11) from complications of liver disease in the Bronx, N.Y., the New York Times reports. He was 61.
Roberts' tagging career was brief -- by the mid-'70s, he'd begun a decades-long battle with drugs and vanished from the scene -- but he influenced generations of graffiti writers with his distinctive style.
Drawing inspiration from the TV series "The Saint," he devised as his logo a haloed stick figure with a joint in its mouth. One of his more memorable pieces, a top-to-bottom job on the IRT subway line, appeared in Norman Mailer's 1974 book The Faith of Graffiti.
Born in Emporia, Virg., in 1950, Roberts began graffiti writing after moving with his family to the Bronx in the late '60s. He worked on Wall Street as a messenger, and while riding the trains, he was inspired by tags left by other artists. His "Stay High 149" moniker stemmed from his propensity for smoking marijuana, and on his website, he admitted to burning through about an ounce a week.
After being absent for most of the '70s and all of the '80s and '90s, he resurfaced in 2000, when his work was featured in a Brooklyn gallery show. While he never capitalized on acclaim, young artists hounded him for autographs and treated him like a celebrity, much to his surprise.
"When he came back on the scene, he had no idea how important he was," said author and archivist Eric Felisbret.
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