The Velvet Bandit, Mendocino County’s homegrown street artist, has once again adorned some of Willits’s drab municipal surfaces with her vibrant paste-ups.
Over the Fourth of July weekend, Velvet told us she returned to her childhood home of Willits to spend time with family and in true guerilla artist fashion blast her art around town for the citizens of Willits to enjoy.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent overturning of the long-standing Roe v. Wade decision, Velvet’s work has leaned into the national conversation. In a punny roast, only the Velvet Bandit can pull off, one of her paste-ups depicted a hardshell taco emblazoned with: “I’ve had crunch wraps more supreme than this court.”
Velvet told us, “Being a mom of a teen daughter and having a niece who is 19, I find it incomprehensible that they now have less rights over their own body than I have had my entire life up until this point. They’re outraged and saddened over this ruling, as am I.” She will use her art to tell the world advocates of reproductive rights “will not go quietly and that we’re in this fight together.”
One particular paste-up had special significance for Velvet, her painting of sweet pea flowers which she said are pasted at the “bottom of Sherwood Road, the road I grew up on.” She painted them “in loving memory of my mom. They were her favorite flower.”
Putting her money where her mouth is, Velvet told us 10% of all the sales on her website are being donated to states that have been “immediately impacted by the abortion ban.”
The Velvet Bandit works during the day as a school lunch lady. In her off hours, she contemplates ways to spread joy and evoke thought with her paste-ups, a medium that involves painting her images at her home studio and then using wheatpaste to adhere her art to banal municipal surfaces.
Her art pops with bright, vivid colors and the use of pop culture to draw the eye and beautify public spaces. This aesthetic stands in contrast to the many dark and gritty street artists that have popularized the genre.
Velvet’s progressive political beliefs also inform her art with commentary on COVID-19, Donald Trump, Black Lives Matter, and reproductive rights sprinkled throughout her pieces. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez took Velvet’s prominence to new heights when she wore a dress adorned with the words “Tax the Rich” in a font exactly like Velvet had inscribed on some of her art.
She has told us in past interviews about Mendocino County’s unique ethos and its influence on her art: “My art tries to be fun and give good vibes. That’s what Mendo means to me.”
Velvet’s influence and vision have continued to grow in the street art world. Recently, she was interviewed by a university-produced podcast about the work she created in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. Parts of that interview and her art will be included in a college textbook, which she said is the “biggest honor I’ve received yet!!!”
Next week, she will be attending a lunch lady convention. “But after I return, I’ll be working hard on getting things ready for my art show coming up at Moonlight Brewing Company in August,” she said. “Never a dull moment for the Bandit, I tell you what.”