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Local artist sees similarities with his work, AOCs Met Gala dress

Santa Rosa based street artist, The Velvet Bandit, a single mother of two children, displays a Tax the Rich painting, Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021. The font and the style of the wording resembles a dress Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., wore at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute benefit gala on Sept. 13. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat)
Local artist sees similarities with his work, AOCs Met Gala dress

Velvet Bandit is not mad. In fact, she sounds a little flattered and a touch nervous.

The Santa Rosa-based street artist, who has asked that her name not be used and never identify herself publicly other than as The Velvet Bandit, said her phone started buzzing Tuesday.

Wednesday it was in full bloat mode.

The reason?

A dress.

The dress worn for Monday’s ultra-smart Met Gala in New York City by US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic leader of “The Squad” and the voice of the new left, had a striking resemblance to art created by The Velvet Bandit.

The dress, as the AOC said on social media, was made by Aurora James, founder of the design house Brother Vellies, was a white dress that was marked by the almost ubiquitous slogan “Treasure of the rich” in bright red letters.

But the font, font color, and style were similar to The Velvet Bandit’s work – especially a piece she included in a recent TikTok video that went viral and captured more than nearly 380,000 views.

The Velvet Bandit’s piece is by a masked Abraham Lincoln. On the mask, with distinctive red letters, there is a handwritten message: “Treasure the rich.”

“My phone just blew up with all sorts of people sharing the picture of her dress,” she said. “People were like, ‘No, this is your work of art.'”

“It’s not just me who says, ‘It looks familiar,'” she said. “I’ve had a lot of people write to me and say, ‘No, it’s yours. It’s your handwriting. ‘”

Her social media accounts, where she posts much of her street art, go bananas. She has re-released images of her art next to the AOC in the dress side by side.

An Instagram post posted on Wednesday asks her followers (she now has more than 6,800 after a recent rise) to tag the congresswoman from New York’s 14th District and James for a possible collaboration.

“I’m a full-time lunch and single mom, which does not leave me much time in my day to try to reach famous people to beat me,” wrote The Velvet Bandit. “They need a female street artist working on their team, don’t you think? It would be an honor. They obviously have a great taste. ”

Velvet Bandit was also contacted by lawyers.

But she will not sue.

She’s not even mad.

But a public tip of the hat from one of the most high-profile, progressive politicians in the nation would be nice, she said.

And a collaboration – The Velvet Bandits’ politics and humor leans to the left – would be even better. If she does not already do so, The Velvet Bandit is convinced that the AOC would probably appreciate her work and her sensitivity.

The congressman, who is a frequent target for his conservative colleagues and experts, has a whole series of “Treasure of the Rich” items on his “Official AOC Team Shop.” But it has also raised eyebrows, what about sweatshirts for $ 58 and “Tax the Rich” mugs that sell for $ 27.

(Velvet Bandits “Tax the Rich” hoodie sells for $ 32).

Even with a story of using the phrase, the font, styling and color of the items do not resemble The Velvet Bandits piece as the dress did.

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

“But still, they would like to work with me.”

‘I know I do not own the phrase’

The last few days have been a bit disorienting for an artist who has been working to maintain his anonymity. There has been attention on social media. She was the main character on celebrity gossip site TMZ for a stretch Wednesday. The British tabloid Daily Mail picked up the story.

The narrative apparently has all the elements — a super left-leaning, outspoken politician trying to stab the people she mingles with at the uber-exclusive Met Gala, only to (unintentionally) steal from a single mom who works as a lunch lady and makes street art on the side.

But it’s not true how the story feels for The Velvet Bandit.

“A lot of the headlines are so scary, ‘AOC skinned a lunch lady …’ paints her in a bad light or says I’m accusing her,” she said. “I hope they are not mad at me.”

She does not expect to answer any of these attorney inquiries.

“I know I do not own the phrase ‘Tax the rich,'” she said. “But I would love to work with AOC. I would love to spread her message through street art. ”

Ocasio-Cortez’s press office did not respond to a request for comment.

‘A middle-aged mother with some paintings’

Velvet Bandit has been an artist all his life. But the pandemic screwed up.

When coronavirus shut down its life in March 2020, The Velvet Bandit was suddenly no longer needed during the 20 hours a week she had worked as a lunch lady at her children’s school.

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