Local artist sees similarities to her work, AOC’s Met Gala dress

The Velvet Bandit is not crazy. In fact, she looks a little flattered and a little nervous.

The Santa Rosa-based street artist, who asked that his name not be used and never identified himself publicly other than as The Velvet Bandit, said his phone began to vibrate on Tuesday.

On Wednesday it was in full blast mode.

The reason?


The dress worn at Monday’s ultra-chic Met Gala in New York City by US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democratic frontman of “The Squad” and voice of the New Left, strikingly resembled the art created by The Velvet Bandit.

The dress, which AOC said on social media was made by Aurora James, founder of design house Brother Vellies, was a white dress sporting the almost ubiquitous slogan “Tax the Rich” in bold red lettering.

But the font, lettering color, and styling resembled the work of The Velvet Bandit – especially a piece she featured in a recent TikTok video that went viral, garnering over 27,000 views.

The Velvet Bandit coin is that of a masked Abraham Lincoln. On the mask, in striking red letters, is a handwritten message: “Tax the rich. “

“My phone just exploded with all kinds of people sharing the photo of her dress,” she said. “People would say, ‘No, this is your work of art. “”

“It’s not just me saying, ‘It sounds familiar’,” she said. “I’ve had a ton of people writing to me, saying, ‘No, it’s yours. It’s your handwriting. ‘”

Her social media accounts, where she posts much of her street art, are turning bananas. She reposted images of her art side by side alongside AOC in the dress.

An Instagram post published on Wednesday asks its followers (it now has more than 6,800 after a recent surge) to tag the New York 14th District MP and James for possible collaboration.

“I’m a full-time lunch woman and single mom, which doesn’t leave me much time in my day trying to reach famous people to hit me,” The Velvet Bandit wrote. “They need a female street artist to work on their team, don’t you think? It would be an honor. Obviously, they taste fabulous.

The Velvet Bandit has also been contacted by lawyers.

But she doesn’t want to press charges.

She’s not even mad.

However, a public nudge from one of the country’s most prominent progressive politicians would be nice, she said.

And a collaboration – The Velvet Bandit’s politics and humor lean to the left – would be even better. If she doesn’t already, The Velvet Bandit is convinced that AOC would likely appreciate her work and her sensitivity.

The congressman, who is a frequent target of her conservative colleagues and experts, offers a full line of “Tax the Rich” products on her “Official AOC Team Store”. But that too raised eyebrows, with $ 58 sweatshirts and $ 27 “Tax the Rich” mugs.

(Velvet Bandit’s “Tax the Rich” Hoodie sells for $ 32).

Even with a history of using the phrase, the font, styling, and coloring of this merchandise doesn’t resemble The Velvet Bandit’s piece like the dress did.

“Maybe it’s a coincidence,” The Velvet Bandit said of the resemblance between the dress and the art.

“But anyway, they should want to work with me.”

“I know I don’t own the phrase”

The past few days have been a bit disorienting for an artist who has struggled to remain anonymous. There has been attention on social media. On Wednesday, she was the star of the celebrity gossip website TMZ. British tabloid Daily Mail picked up the story.

The story apparently has all the elements – a very leftist and outspoken politician tries to poke fun at the very people she meddles with at the ultra-exclusive Met Gala, only to (inadvertently) steal a single mom who works as a lunch lady. and does street art on the side.

But that’s not quite how the story feels for The Velvet Bandit.

“A lot of the headlines are so squeaky that ‘AOC ripped off a lady at lunch …’ painting her in such a bad light or saying I’m accusing her,” she said. “I hope they aren’t mad at me.”

She does not expect to answer any of these legal questions.

“I know I don’t own the phrase ‘Tax the rich’,” she said. “But I would love to work with AOC. I would love to get his message across through street art.

The Ocasio-Cortez press office did not respond to an email request for comment.

‘A middle aged mom with some paintings’

The Velvet Bandit has been an artist all of her life. But the pandemic has taken it up a notch.

When the coronavirus ended her life in March 2020, The Velvet Bandit suddenly no longer needed the 20 hours a week she worked as a waitress at her children’s school.

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