Of Presidents, Power, Prejudice, and Street Art

“It is better to be alone than in bad company,” President George Washington is quoted as saying, and who could disagree. Given the current Republican and Democratic party’s state and the country’s state, the company you should keep is an excellent question and one more closely scrutinized. Washington himself was famously independent of parties, preferring his own counsel.

As much as the two parties try to differentiate themselves on social policy, when you look at the list of wealthy donors they both have amassed and the legislation they’ve passed, you may wonder if it is really a Left-Right battle that is being fought or a Top-Bottom one.

A majority of congresspeople are millionaires, some are hundred-millionaires, yet the average American’s wages are about $52,000.  The Center for Responsive Politics says this week that the 2020 election cost $14.4 billion, “more than doubling the total cost” of the 2016 election. How many millions did you and your family donate?

Street artists infrequently present current or past presidents in their artworks – we have seen over the last two decades images of Nixon, Bush, Reagan, Kennedy, and an occasional Obama. Trump had the most considerable amount of portraits and critiques that we’ve seen, and Biden images are just starting to appear.

As we celebrate President’s Day, a federal holiday, in the US, we turn to Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt on Mount Rushmore. Originally this billboard-sized installation had a large logo over the top of it saying “Supremacy” – a commentary on racism and power by the Supremacy Project, a collective of Julian Alexander and Khadijat Oseni. The billboard on Flushing Avenue in Brooklyn riled a few vandals at different times, including one apparently caught on camera. Now it is simply a large black and white photo, but more recently, someone has also crossed out the presidents’ eyes.

Vandalized piece by Julian Alexander and Khadijat Oseni of the Supremacy Project (photo ©Jaime Rojo)