The Fascinating Story of The Monster Painting

Tucked away near the art rooms, there’s a painting no one ever seems to discuss.

The painting is quite large, roughly six feet high, and depicts a bloodied boy laying across a rocky shore, with a gigantic frightening monster, resembling a Sasquatch with a lizard tail, looming over the boy. A skull sits in the foreground, a possible previous victim.

As interesting as the painting is, its story might be more fascinating.

The “Monster Painting,” a senior class gift. (courtesy of Jason Knapp.)

1969 Oak Park graduate Jason Knapp was approached by the class of 1972, inquiring about a class gift they could make to the school. The painting, originally a class project, was purchased by the class of ’72 and hung above the main stairs for many years.

Knapp said the painting was inspired by pop culture, movie and propaganda posters, and comics.

It’s supposed to represent an “important era of American social history and cultural conflict,” Knapp said.

The large painting hung above the main stairs, the monster surveying the school.

The painting was hauled into storage in 1988 after it sparked controversy among parents and school staff. There was also some repainting at the time solidifying the decision to remove the painting.

The painting was stored in the gymnasium, behind a grate beside the entrance to the girls locker-room.  The storage area is dark, full of cobwebs and has exposed pipes covered in a thick layer of dust.

“What astonished me more than anything is that the painting was taken down after having been on public view for almost 15 years,” Knapp said.

Somewhere between 1999 and 2000 the painting was discovered to be missing. A group of three young men, who had graduated from Oak Park a few years earlier, went on a hunt for the painting. The group was vaguely aware of where the painting was and began to search the gymnasium thoroughly. The painting was found behind the dusty grate and hauled off to one of the boys’ parents’ houses.

Fifteen years later in late 2014, now fully grown adults and college graduates, the painting had made its way into one of the liberators’ garages. A Facebook page jump started the search for monster painting in 2014, past alumni who remembered the painting were on a search to get it back.

“I am starting an effort to get back the monster picture to be replaced at Oak Park,” alumnus John Olson said in an Oak Park Alumni Facebook group.

Through word of mouth and Facebook interactions, the liberators were aware that people wanted the painting back. The liberators, then OP athletic director Casey Vokolek, Ed.D., and the principal at the time Mark Maus, Ed.D., had a meeting about the painting. The liberators were willing to give the painting back on two conditions, that charges would not be pressed and that the painting would be hung up on display.

Starting in the fall and running into December 2014, OP held its 50th anniversary celebration and displayed many previous senior class gifts. Placed squarely and boldly at the corner of the art hallway, the monster painting hung. To put in awe, loom over and inspire a whole new generation.