The Velvet Bandit is a paste-up street artist known for her playful, punny, and, peppy aesthetic whose roots harken back to Willits, Mendocino County’s gateway to the redwoods.
Velvet (whose name we do not know despite interviewing her multiple times) currently resides in Santa Rosa. During the day, she works as a lunch lady, but often returns to the land of her birth to visit family, her hometown, and to spread her art on Mendocino County’s lonely, barren walls.
Her art appears throughout Mendocino County in Fort Bragg, Boonville, Ukiah, Willits, and Hopland. Her two most recent pieces were installed in Hopland and Willits.
For those that are interested in seeing her two most recent pieces, Velvet told us they can be found by the Van Motel in Willits and across from Real Goodz in Hopland.
The Velvet Bandit has garnered a significant social media following and press coverage for her unique take on street art. A medium dominated in pop culture by the gritty social commentary of Banksy, the Velvet Bandit’s take on street art is spreading beauty, color, and optimism on the overlooked, banal surfaces of utility boxes, underpasses, and vacant buildings.
Velvet does not steer away from politics, but her images are often encouraging calls to action rather than eulogies for late-capitalism typical of other street artists.
Arguably Velvet’s biggest claim to fame is when Democratic politician New York Senator Alexandra Ocasio Cortez wore a gown adorned with the slogan “Tax the Rich” to the annual Met Gala where the elite of New York’s glitterati wine and dine.
The font of the slogan on Cortez’s dress was clearly an homage to the image Velvet had painted of Abraham Lincoln wearing a surgical mask and on it were the words “Tax the Rich”.
Velvet paints her street art at home and hits the streets with a brush and a can of wheatpaste, a biodegradable, non-toxic adhesive used for wallpaper. When she finds an appropriate canvas, usually a boring, municipal surface, Velvet quickly brushes the wheatpaste over the image and walks away leaving a little splash of beauty and color in her wake.
These days, Velvet told us she is “busy being a lunch lady” and is getting ready for a show opening at the Moonlight Brewing Company in Santa Rosa. She is also excited because recently she was the artist behind a label for Titled Shed Ciderworks.
She was most excited about recently getting to talk to Willits High School students, her alma mater, about her art. She told the students that Willits High was where she committed her first act of vandalism and “they should NEVER do that” followed wryly by a winking emoji.