Stephen King’s scary clown inspires NYC street art (photo of the week)

A twinge of panic surged through me as I crossed 1st Street and 2nd Avenue in the East Village. I glanced at the man’s wild red hair, crazy eyes and yellow teeth, and immediately looked away.

I had to remind myself that this was street art, and not an actual threat. Like many Americans, I find clowns to be incredibly creepy!

Scary clown street art at Mars Bar in the East Village

Clown-themed street art outside Mars Bar in the East Village. (photo: Leslie Koch)

This deranged clown is the work of street artist Jane Knox and sits outside of the East Village’s Mars Bar.The clown bares its teeth and dips a claw-like hand into a cocktail, perhaps to place a roofie in an unsuspecting patron’s drink.

If you are looking for an edgy take on beloved pop culture characters, keep an eye on Mars Bar‘s wall. A drunk Santa street mural graced this same location in December.

The artist references the dive bar’s status as a street art hot-spot (and notoriously sketchy hangout) with a caption scrawled in dripping red paint:

Can’t you see I’m having a Mars Bar moment?!?!

Literary inspiration

I wasn’t sure what to make of this clown street art, so I posted the image on my LeslieTravel Facebook Page. Alert Downtown Traveler reader Cesar pointed out that this clown looked familiar:

How I got schooled on Facebook...

Cesar claimed that the clown was based on a Stephen King character from the novel/1990 mini series It. Somehow, Cesar, who has lived his entire life in Argentina, had seen this American series, while I  had not.

A quick Google Images search confirmed Cesar’s assertion that this artwork is based on the Stephen King clown. The hairstyle, eye makeup and frightening claws are a perfect match:

Poster from Stephen King film It with scary clown

The scary clown from Stephen King's "It." (photo: Wikipedia)

Perhaps artist Jane Knox was haunted by childhood memories of this scary TV clown. While we don’t know why Knox chose this character to immortalize on 2nd Avenue, we do have video of her creating the street art.

The EV Grieve blog posted this short clip of Knox at work on the mural:

Clowns: fun or scary?

We’d love to hear what you think of this street art and, more generally, these red-headed, big nosed entertainers. When you picture a clown, does Ronald McDonald or John Wayne Gacy spring to mind?


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About Leslie Koch

I'm a New Yorker with a passion for travel and art. I founded after returning from a year-long backpacking trip around the world. Find me on Twitter at @leslietravel.