Learning of Princess Hijab—a Paris-based street artist who culturejams advertisements to include her namesake headscarf—an old question came to mind: where are all the rightwing graffiti artists, stencil afficionados, and conservative interventionists? While we see strictly political graffiti on behalf of all sides in political skirmishes worldwide, I can’t say I’ve seen particularly artful examples on the right side of the political spectrum.
Around the time of the Republican National Convention, I pondered the question, to no avail, at my day job when a series of unsanctioned artworks started appearing around the Twin Cities. They all included the G.O.P. acronym, but it was clear this was a different GOP: “Greed Over People” or “Get Out Phascists” (which is confusing…Phish fan facists? Big Pharma fascists?). Since then I’ve noticed that while lefty street art is virtually eveywhere, from Noam Chomsky stencils to railroad cars tagged with BAILOUT, TORTURE and POVERTY, there was very little from the other end of the political spectrum (except for the brief blip in Nobama graffiti a few months back).
When I noticed Princess Hijab’s work today, I thought I’d come across the first interesting street intervention by a person who might, just maybe, fit the bill—if not politically, then culturally. (I recognize a limitation in my thinking: naturally, there are liberal and moderate Muslims who wear headscarves.) But upon further reading, her work seems to be more about covering the shame of omnipresent (and often sexualized) ads than in offering a critique of women’s bodies. Her “hijabizing” of French ads is part of a “Jihad,” she writes, but “she acts upon her own free will. She is not involved in any lobby or movement be it political, religious, or to do with advertising. In fact, the Princess is an insomniac-punk. She is the leader of an artistic fight, nothing else.”
As for rightwing graffiti, I’m not sure why we don’t see more. Are conservatives more respectful of personal property or more fearful of the law? Is their fight in boardrooms or ballot boxes instead of boxcars and subway station walls? Or am I just not looking in the right places?
When I posed the question on Twitter last night, A’yen Tran, a Brooklyn artist I met when the Miss Rockaway Armada was in Minneapolis a few summers ago, responded that perhaps The Splasher was the closest I’d get. The Splasher achieved some notoriety two years ago for defacing New York street art with paint and leaving behind a manifesto that seemed more anti-artist than in tune with the anti-art Dadaists it referenced: “The removal of this document could result in injury, as we have mixed the wheat paste with tiny shards of glass.” “[Y]ou could argue that the Splasher had some echoes of fascism despite a pseudo surrealist facade,” Tran writes.
So, more in the spirit of crowd-sourcing than conclusion-making, what do you think? Is street art an inherently left-leaning domain, or have I not been looking hard enough?