That Kingsgate Mall Mural Isn’t an Homage to Netflix’s Tiger King… Right?

You know that feeling when you suddenly look at something you’ve seen countless times just a little differently?

Take Kevin Spacey movies or toilet paper, for example.

For me personally, the most recent such moment happened when walking by the southern side of Kingsgate Mall in Mount Pleasant. I’ve strolled by the mural (one of the many excellent works from the Vancouver Mural Festival) of a woman between two tigers numerous times and thought nothing other than “cool mural.”

But this time, it was different. Because this time, I had just watched the immensely popular and binge-able Tiger King on Netflix. And I couldn’t help noticing that the woman sandwiched between two lions in the mural bears a resemblance to the one and only Carole Baskin.

One of the central characters in the documentary, Baskin runs Florida’s Big Cat Rescue, an animal sanctuary “devoted to rescuing and housing exotic cats.” (A lot of people also think she killed her husband, but that’s another matter entirely.)

Staring at the side of the wall, the gears in my mind slowly clicking, I was immediately of two frames of mind.

The first told me that it had to be a coincidence. The mural was painted at minimum last summer, long before Tiger King was dominating pop culture. It’s almost definitely just a painting of a blonde woman with two lions.

But… what if it isn’t?

That’s the second side of my brain, the one that’s constantly getting me into trouble, like last week when it insisted that I purchase an Xbox One while hurdling toward financial uncertainty.

It had a point though. The documentary makes it quite clear that Carole Baskin has a huge social media following. It wouldn’t be completely ridiculous that the artist had heard of her and used her as inspiration. Right?

So I took to the interwebs to finally satisfy my curiosity. It didn’t take long to find information on the painting on the Vancouver Mural Festival website.

There I was told that “Twin Lions” was done in 2017 by Oxana Gaidasheva.

On the site, the artist statement states that “a female character is reclined between two lions, she is reaching out toward one of them.”

Hmm. No mention of Baskin, just a “female character.” Not looking good. But hey, I’d spent a good three minutes on this and I wasn’t about to stop there.

I reached out to Gaidasheva—who was born in Belarus and currently lives in East Vancouver—via the only way a sane person would: cold messaging her on Facebook.

She didn’t leave me twisting in the wind for long. Unfortunately, she also had no knowledge of Tiger King or any of its characters. 

“At best I prophesied the coming of the Tiger King show,” she wrote, informing me that the woman portrayed in the painting is actually a friend of hers.

So there it is.

A tidy ending—even if it’s not what we were hoping for. Kind of like the show itself, really. (Sorry for the spoiler.)