LANGLEY — It’s that colorful, human-sized cutout where passersby pose to admire how they look with rainbow wings.
What’s up with that?
It’s pure social media genius.
For some reason, people are drawn to metamorphosing into a butterfly to plaster on Instagram. A Google search turned up butterfly wing murals from the sticks of Alabama to the snazz of San Francisco and all over the planet.
And recently, to a prime spot in this village by the sea best known for bunnies and whales.
“It just showed up a few weeks ago,” said Betty Freeman at the Langley Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center. “And then people started posting on Facebook.”
It’s a whodunit, Langley style.
There was no permit. No commission. No juried decision.
One day, there it was on a construction fence by Dog House Tavern, a historic haunt that’s undergoing renovation.
Ask merchants and officials and they say the giant wings mysteriously appeared.
Ask an artist and get this: “Art is not by consensus. It just happens. It’s not about personal gain or glory.”
Fact is, the village leaders know who painted it.
But they coyly deny it.
“I was just as astounded as everybody else,” said Langley Mayor Tim Callison, kicked back in his City Hall office in chino shorts and slip-on shoes.
He didn’t have his fingers crossed when he said it. But his legs were crossed.
It was too dicey to ask the city attorney for advice. Last year, the mayor sent The Daily Herald’s sibling paper, South Whidbey Record, a copy of the $64 invoice for time the city attorney spent in responding to a Record reporter’s question.
With the butterfly, the mayor claims the culprits were pixies. That’s right, he pointed his finger at Tinker Bell.
“As far as I know it was the work of the fairies,” Callison said. “It might have been helped by some human form. We have a large fairy community here. I’m serious.”
It’s a sanctuary city, after all. So maybe that extends to mythological beings, too.
In a baffling move, Callison went from fairies to gorillas making art.
Oh, wait, he meant guerrillas as in public art nymphs.
“We’ve had all kinds of guerrilla art activities,” he said. “There’s a picture of Radar O’Reilly underneath the ‘Speed checked by radar sign’ as you come into the city. Somebody put it up. We don’t know who. But we’re leaving it up. We had the yarn bombers that were knitting stuff on poles and trees.”
Callison mentioned the fresh chalkings all over the sidewalks downtown with flowers, hearts and sayings that appeared that very morning.
“It adds little spice of life,” he said. “We’re kind of a spice-of-life town.”
Think: an artsy version of the fictional Mayberry.
Still, as mayor, shouldn’t he get to the bottom of this butterfly effect?
“Why would I?” Callison said. “It’s a fun thing for tourists.”
The town is poised to rake in a record amount of tourism bucks in 2018, based on first-quarter tax revenue.
People from the mainland come to the island hub year-round for the shops, whales, art, food and funk. Within steps of the butterfly is buttered popcorn at the cinema, The Clyde Theatre.
The art installation is its own marquee.
“I like the colors of the wings,” said Nicole Kirk, 17, visiting from Tacoma. A nanosecond later a winged version of her had spread like pixie dust through the digital universe.
Her mom, Cat Bilnoski, had a concern: “To get all the wings and the person you have to be a couple steps into the street.”
Not to worry. People in Langley are used to braking for bunnies and ringing a bell for whales. They’ll brake for a butterfly.