The Velvet Bandit is not like most street artists. Branding herself as a street artist, mom, and lunch landy, her artistic sensibilities hover somewhere between Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo, and Roy Lichenstein with a dollop of punny that stands in stark contrast to the gritty, urban nature of common street art.
Her designs are simple, often heartwarming, and sometimes incisively political. Her depiction of Abraham Lincoln wearing a face mask emblazoned with the words “Tax the Rich” became a part of the national conversation around economic stratification when New York Senator Alexandra Ocasio Cortex wore a gown adorned with the slogan to the annual Met Gala where the elite of New York’s glitterati wine and dine.
The Velvet Bandit hails from Mendocino County, growing up in Willits finding her passion for art while attending Willits High. In an interview back in June, the Velvet Bandit told us “My art tries to be fun and give good vibes. That’s what Mendo means to me.”
Jennifer Lockwood, Executive Director of Willits Chater School, returned from her Thanksgiving holiday and found that the Velvet Bandit had adorned one of the school buildings with a vibrant depiction of blooming California Golden Poppies.
Director Lockwood told us, “What a special treat to come back on campus after Break to some beautiful art on our building. Normally we would not be very excited about tagging on our building, but this kind of tagging is welcomed!”
The Velvet Bandit was in her hometown “for a few days to enjoy Thanksgiving with my family.” She told us a woman actually reached out to her and requested she tag the school. Armed with her paintbrush, wheatpaste, and a hand-painted depiction of golden poppies, the Velvet Bandit told us she stood underneath a surveillance camera and bedecked the school facade with her vibrant piece.
Accompanied by her 14-year-old daughter, her 19-year-old niece, and one of her “oldest and dearest friends who is also a teacher, the Velvet Bandit was finishing pasting her art to the wall when a car pulled into the parking lot and the driver yelled, “Good job!”
Director Lockwood said Willits Charter is an Arts and Science school that actively researches local artists and the Velvet Bandit’s medium “opens up a window into a further exploration into wheatpaste art.” The Velvet Bandit’s work has found an appreciation at Willits Charter, Principal Lockwood said, due to “the variety of messages she puts out – some purely comical, some political, and some [are] just beautiful.”
For Mendocino County residents eager to see more, the Velvet Bandit told us she left two other “small pieces around Bud Park” in Willits.
Looking ahead, the Velvet Bandit said “the more and more I do this, the more and more I want to go bigger and better. I’ll be back around Christmas with more for sure.”
The Velvet Bandit’s work can also be seen in Downtown Ukiah near the Palace Hotel, on the main drag of Boonville, scattered around Hopland, and other places only the curious might uncover.