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DC Graffiti Artist "Borf" Arrested

Flickr image by BarkingMoose

The Washington Post reports that Washington, DC's most famous graffiti artist has been apprehended.

The mysterious, ubiquitous and eminently destructive graffiti artist known as Borf was arrested yesterday after waging a months-long campaign that may have been intended to enlighten Washington, but mostly just confused us.

The man primarily responsible for Borf is, it turns out, an 18-year-old art student from Great Falls named John Tsombikos, according to D.C. police inspector Diane Groomes. He was arrested along with two other young men in the wee hours of yesterday morning after officers received a tip that graffiti artists were spray-painting at Seventh and V streets NW.

Approached by a reporter at D.C. Superior Court yesterday, Tsombikos refused to comment. One of the other men arrested, Richard Lee, 18, said, "Borf is dead."

Well, yes and no. According to Tsombikos's mother, Kathleen Murphy of Great Falls, Borf was the nickname for a close friend of her son's who committed suicide about two years ago. The Borf face featured in his graffiti -- which many who've walked through Dupont Circle would recognize, and which looks somewhat like TV actor Jerry O'Connell -- belongs to that young man. Murphy suggests that for her son, the Borf face and moniker came to stand for all that he felt was wrong with the world.

Turns out little Johnny fancies himself an anarchist. As the Post article notes, "[h]e decided he doesn't believe in the state, capitalism, private property, globalization. Most of all, he doesn't believe in adulthood, which he considers 'boring' and 'selling out.'"

Borf's a spoiled little rich kid, hopping around the world on daddy and mommy's dime - something he apparently still believes in. His mom, at least, doesn't seem particularly bothered by juniors juvenile antics. The DC Department of Public Works should haul them into court to pay for the cleanup costs. Maybe the Tsombikos family would take it a little more seriously if that happened...

Flickr image from IWantAMonkey

All the Borf you can stand is available via the Borf Spotting Ring at [Flickr]


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Comments (43)

Jerry O'Connell. Wow. What ... (Below threshold)

Jerry O'Connell. Wow. What is he up to these days?

The D.C. Police need to make their way to Austin. There are dozens of Borfesque types.

I predict the "anachist" wi... (Below threshold)

I predict the "anachist" will soon develop a belief in his right to a fair trial. And his right to be excused from any consequences. Surely he was bullied at school or a relative has died in the last decade or the school cafeteria wasn't very good.

His new beliefs will arise just after he speaks with lawyers.

he doesn't believe in ad... (Below threshold)

he doesn't believe in adulthood, which he considers 'boring' and 'selling out'

ROFL!!! Does he believe in pixie dust?

From the stuff on flickr he... (Below threshold)

From the stuff on flickr he hardly even deserves to be considered a grafitti artist. Looks like he's just spraying stencils and sloppy tags on random objects. I've seen much better work. But I suppose my rampant capitalism, enjoyment of private property, and support of globalization have dulled my senses to the exquisite beauty of his Borfness.

Good! I was getting sick of... (Below threshold)

Good! I was getting sick of seeing that sh!t around town!

Karl Rove made him do it.</... (Below threshold)
Eneils Bailey:

Karl Rove made him do it.

This is the kind of guy who... (Below threshold)

This is the kind of guy who would've been beaten down with bats in my neighborhood and his hands would've been so mangled he wouldn't ever be able to spraypaint OUCH let alone BORF....

The twerp isn't even <a hre... (Below threshold)

The twerp isn't even original.

Ouch. Mom's an ass. He's a ... (Below threshold)

Ouch. Mom's an ass. He's a narcissistic punk.

Prison crayons, plus a real stiff fine and some jail time should work.

During my years in Albuquerque where graffiti was running riot for awhile on every wall I really grew to hate these punks.

All your Borf are belong to... (Below threshold)

All your Borf are belong to us.

Borf wears a penis gourd.</... (Below threshold)

Borf wears a penis gourd.

Hm, that sounds more like n... (Below threshold)

Hm, that sounds more like nihilism than anarchism.

Golly gee, such dastardly d... (Below threshold)

Golly gee, such dastardly deeds. How DARE he espouse anarchy and call adulthood "boring" and a "sellout". Wow.

And graffiti ? Man, that's gotta be worth, what, 10 years, at least ?

Get a grip guys.

FUCK THE SYSTEM!!!!! BORF L... (Below threshold)

FUCK THE SYSTEM!!!!! BORF LIVES because his art lives! I APPLAUD him for living something he believes in! I don't want it cleaned up, I love walking down the streets of DC and seeing his work, its a daily reminder of how important it is to share the hope and the passion that i know he feels everytime he picks up that spray paint!!! if only we could all be so brave, or even to just appreciate it instead of hate on it the world would be a better place!!!! SO BORF, from one corcoranite, artist, and fighter to another, good luck, we love you!!!! AND don't stop painting


It's funny that so many of ... (Below threshold)

It's funny that so many of you talk such outrageous shit about this kid while sitting at your computer in the comfort of your homes while my man borf was out gettin all city fame. getting arrested for painting is just part of the lifestyle that only a fraction of you understand. so don't get your hopes up, this isnt the end of graffiti in DC, or anywhere else for that matter. THE YOUTH WILL NEVER STOP

i want to second what the a... (Below threshold)
m dro:

i want to second what the above person said about all the s**t talking behind computers, and also note that calling him a "spoiled little rich kid" is super ignorant and a stupid comment. In case you didn't know, latin american revolutionaries like che guevara, fidel castro, and simon bolivar had it made and lived comfortably, yet they led revolutions of the working class. not to compare borf to these people who have actual importance in world history, but the point is, from the outside, people may have been questioning why these rich people were helping the poor, but that's just how they felt, regardless of where they came from. i applaud borf for breaking out of the monotony the suburbs tried to enforce on him, and explore and make his mark on his city.

Ask Borf to pay for the dam... (Below threshold)

Ask Borf to pay for the damages and then hear how impoverished he is. Or why someone else ~should~ pay for it all. An artist can't be concerned with money, after all, or some such thing.

Guess what: not everyone whose parents or a parent buy him/her cans o' spray paint is an artist. Vandalism isn't art.

If he wants to be regarded as an artist, buy his own paints, canvas, wood for framing, brushes and other tools, rent/buy his own studio/work space and pay for his own utilities and food and health insurance and then create all the art he/she wants to.

Otherwise, applying unwanted substances to unwelcome locations on property that does not belong to him/her is not the work of an 'artist' but of a vandal.

All washed away, painted over, marked over by other vandals...yeah, "art" alright.

Not. As an artist, I can say that people like this creep and those who try to rationalize creepy vandalism are just thieves. It's not ethical behavior when it involves destroying someone else's property...and that includes property owned by 'the public," because the public has to pay the price afterward for all that vandalism.

I'm interested in hearing what this guy's remarks will be when someone asks him when and how he's going to pay for his work. The price tag resulting from public rejection of all that vandalsim...

once again, someone has mad... (Below threshold)
m dro:

once again, someone has made an ignorant comment about his financial situation that is purely uncalled for. i'm sure john went home everyday and asked his parents for money to go buy some spray paint so he could tag the city. yeah right. you are making a sweeping generalization about a guy you know nothing about behind a computer and it just points out your own ignorance, and closed-mindedness. he probably stole it, or gasp! what if he actually had a job? believe me, it isn't totally unheard of.

However, the issue of whether graffiti is art or vadalism is a classic argument, one which most people seem to have a solid view on. Personally, i like what borf was doing. There is a difference between his street-art aesthetic and sloppy gang tags. Yes, it does take the taxpayers' dollars to clean up, but doesn't their money also go to art exhibits in public museums? Sometimes when graffiti is thought out and interesting as Borf's was, it adds flair and life to a city, creating a conversation between citizens, and makes them increasingly aware and interested in their surroundings. However, i agree that simple gang tags can send a city backward. I do understand though that a government can't pick and choose what it erases, but it would be nice.

FUCK YOU BLAND MONOTONISTS!... (Below threshold)

FUCK YOU BLAND MONOTONISTS! Borf may be a kid, sure he may be rich too, but that didnt stop him from the ultimate task of any human. Mass Enlightenment. You wouldn't even be in this thread or this webpage had you not been enlightened by the stylings of Borf! Am I right? I don't even think any of you give a shit about the costs some corporation has to pay on a building to remove some paint. Earth to people, it doesnt cost that fucking much. Corporations fuck u over every day trying to make a quick buck off of your negligence to read the fine print or "make your own damn hamburger". Now you wanna side with them like they give a shit about your opinion. Borf is a revolutionist. Sure, his philosophy is somewhat clouded by his youth but hey I aint complaining. I love watching this shit when I'm sitting on that boring ass Metro... how about u? VIVA EL BORFISMO

When the city of DC puts up... (Below threshold)

When the city of DC puts up a new fountain or monument or statue, who decides what it looks like and where it goes? A very very small minority of the inhabitants of this city. Probably some board members or people on a special council. So a small group of snobby adults who think they know something about art uses public funds to put up "art" in a public space based on their personal preferences and aesthetic taste. HOW IS THIS ANY DIFFERENT THAN BORF? He uses public funds and space to display his art. Yes, you are forced to look at it, but you are also forced to look at hundreds of other pieces of "public art" that is created with your money but without your opinion. Now do you understand? Consider Borf a philanthropist donating art to the city. No, you don't get a say in it, but did you ever?


:(... (Below threshold)


Don't hate, appreciate. </... (Below threshold)

Don't hate, appreciate.

I LOVE VANDALISM, LONG LIVE... (Below threshold)


All corporate advertising i... (Below threshold)

All corporate advertising is vandilism.

Hey darkharbor...you're sho... (Below threshold)

Hey darkharbor...you're showing your ignorance. You're sitting there typing your message about "corporate advertising" on your PC, a corporate machine. You're using electricity from your local monolithic power company. Your probably sitting there in a pair of Gap jeans and some Fruit-of-the-Looms. If you want to follow that principle and be respected for your opinion in any way, your only recourse is to move to the wilderness and live on in a mud hut. Oh, and by the way? You have to WALK there. Everything else you use is made by a CORPORATION. Grow up.

Oh, and P.S.Exactl... (Below threshold)

Oh, and P.S.

Exactly how did you hear about that computer you're using? Word of mouth? Advertising is the reason you can even use this blog. It PAYS for blog sites. Borf may be cool (personally, I like his art, just would rather see it on a canvas than public property), but little boys like him -- and you -- base your arguments on abstract, pseudo-intellectual viewpoints that have absolutely no basis in reality -- often ignoring the fact that you have a forum to post your silly, childlike viewpoints in because of corporations. The very corporations (and corporate advertising) you rail against with such clueless angst. You amuse me.

so wat the hell makes this ... (Below threshold)

so wat the hell makes this kid the most famous dc graffitti artist? if u ask me he got LUCKY some ignorant reviewer gave him that tittle, He's only 18 concidering how old dc graffitti is he cant possibly b the most famous and if ur tags suc who cares how many ppl c it!!!!!

what makes him the most "fa... (Below threshold)
m dro:

what makes him the most "famous" i feel, is that he actually had more creativity and thought behind his pieces than just tagging his name. yes, he did do that too, but thats not what made him famous. what made him famous is the creativity of the image, its placement (see the pic above) and overall eye for aesthetic. he is not the most famous dc artist ever, leave that to cool disco dan. but in case you haven't noticed, dc doesn't really have a developed "scene" of anything. music (well, there is dischord, but even their heyday was in the 80s), graffiti, anything. believe it or not, borf is probably the first graf artist in the area to get any real national attention since cool disco dan in the 80s.

borg may have had some shit... (Below threshold)

borg may have had some shity stuff butr altleast he had his reasons of taging unlike some tagers who do it for fun. this dude was tryint to show some kind of emotin or thought about his dead frien. and that thing, only he knows.

Art is no crime

free borfu call th... (Below threshold)
neem one:

free borf

u call that graffiti? its more art that graffit. washington should be ahppy that they ahve art on there streets not complete vandalism

well im a graff artist myse... (Below threshold)

well im a graff artist myself and sometimes we just do it to bring out a message to the people plus some of us are really good artists you should check out the freight trains sometime some of us have talent

thats right aker, people sh... (Below threshold)

thats right aker, people should opean their minds to the other aspects of art and graffiti is one of them. Borf wanted to make others feel his pain of his lost friend by expressing it this way. He had a reason for it he has heart something that any gives any writer a boost. to all who think that Borf has no skill id like to see you hit up a highway sign.

Graffiti has to be hands do... (Below threshold)

Graffiti has to be hands down the most misunderstood shit ever. How complex can a 18 year old boys mind be after losing a friend to suicide in the decision to do graffiti? it amazes me this thread lives on over a year.

graffiti has the power to invoke all kinds of emotions. just look at how divided people are in this thread....look at how this 18 year old has touched so many by his own hard work and reckless abandon of his own freedom.

people are so over the top about graffiti. DC needs some fucking art on it's pale white walls that my fucking money pays for.

Smithsonian is with it. MOMA is down. get on the graffiti train you fucking clones!

I respect Borg for showing ... (Below threshold)

I respect Borg for showing his emotions through his art man all u other c*nts are obviously jealous or were just a little bitch when you were brought up. Borg isn't doing his art to piss you off he is expressing his feelings through his art in memory of his dead friend. I am actually glad that you are pissed off that is what keeps me writing because of all the attention us writers get. You try and stop us but actually inspire us to continue our work ...so thanks for showing an obvious interest in graffiti art. so long suckers

i think borf was and still ... (Below threshold)

i think borf was and still is a good tagger. People just dont like taggers because they have their heads somewhere else all the time. Alot of graffiti has meanings especially things that motivate or give good advice to teenagers or even adults like the stupid ones that write all the stupid crap about borf. Give taggers a break because the cops dont let people do anything these days. P.S=legalize weed pigs

whats the difference betwee... (Below threshold)
Cite 3 a.k.a. bomtask1:

whats the difference between graffiti and advertisements? with advertisements, people got paid to annoy you. and thats about it. you like being brainwashed and knowing someone got paid to help you there?

I love borf's stuff.

he's not the greatest artist.. no.. but he has clever messages and truely "gets up" more than anyone else.

as far as "destruction of public property"...
i'd rather see the borf tag than a gap ad on a bus ANYDAY.

dude borf is out there his ... (Below threshold)

dude borf is out there his work might not have any style but he still got up

-Jeff The Bus





I prefer graf to stecils, b... (Below threshold)

I prefer graf to stecils, but not bad.

alright.so obvioulsy... (Below threshold)

so obvioulsy the pretentious pricks sitting at their
computer discussing the horrors of tagging
dont understand much about graffiti and the fact that it is, indeed, ART.


its called passion.
look it up.

ok one. this isnt vandalism... (Below threshold)

ok one. this isnt vandalism. it is art. and people like the three arrested should have the right to do what they do. its public property. i mean, you may not know what it means or what it stands for but hell, it doesnt mean its not beautiful to some people. Borf as well as other street artists have changed my life personally. they have set me into a world that i have made for myself. yea, i feel i shouldnt have to live by the laws set for me. but you know what, i get pinched for it. but i mean come on. life has just begun for these 18 year olds. were they doing drugs? were they shooting up in a back ally? i mean shit. if your gonna arrest people arrest the fucking drunkards, the fucking kids that go out there and party like its no one elses business. its upsetting to see such meaningful art stream disrupted by such thinking. most of you sit down and look at tags and are like. GANGS! ahhhh!! no. thats not how it works. at all. tags are meaningful to those who wright. it says, "hey, ive been here" is that so bad? sure occasionally there are gangs. but they dont have anything on those who actually write. writing is for people, young, old what ever age but it shouldnt be put to a hult. there is meaning behind it all. LONG LIVE BORF! good luck fellow artists

Being a Street Artist is ba... (Below threshold)

Being a Street Artist is barely a crime compared to stealing, or violence. You can say its vandelism but its a arguable topic if its destrcutive or constructive. Its the best way to express yourself to other humans just like cavemen drew on cavewalls to communicate to other cavemen.

Stop Haten,,, Art is Art...... (Below threshold)

Stop Haten,,, Art is Art... Big up's to Borf.. From Va's Fresh






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