Art News

#StillBernie: Denver Street Artists Represent for Bernie Sanders

The writing's on the wall. While many political pundits have counted Bernie Sanders out, there are plenty of people in this state (the same people who helped Sanders win the Colorado caucuses) who still want him to be the Democratic nominee, as evidenced by the hashtag #StillBernie trending on Twitter.

There's more physical evidence of Sanders's popularity downtown, where two murals push the candidate. 
The first was painted about four weeks ago by Gamma Gallery on his canvas at Bella Vista Mexican restaurant. On the Gamma Gallery piece, Bernie Sanders's perfectly detailed face is layered in front of the U.S. Constitution. The piece was painted freestyle by Gamma, without using a projector. That's a technique that takes years to perfect — but Gamma makes it look easy. Gregg Deal is the mastermind behind the more recent "Rise Together" mural on the north-facing wall of Train Fitness at 22nd and Larimer streets. Deal moved to Colorado five months ago and just completed a three-month residency at the Denver Art Museum reserved for indigenous artists. 

After living in Utah and then Washington, D.C., for the past sixteen years, Deal took the residency as "a chance to move back west." As for the Sanders piece, he says: "I'm indigenous, so Bernie is the only candidate talking about indigenous issues. I wanted something that would stand out, pop, and, thankfully, I had the chance to do it."Train Fitness owner Danica Ansardy was connected to Deal through curator Adam Lancaster, who helped develop the language of the piece with Deal, and asked him to paint the Bernie-supporting mural. "I think that there's still a lot of time and a lot of room to maneuver," Deal says. "On paper, it doesn't look good. But the same happened to Obama in '08. It may pan out in our favor, if these hits keep coming to Hillary." 

The propaganda style of Deal's mural may remind veiwers of another political piece of art: "Hope" created by Shepard Fairey over eight years ago for Barack Obama's presidential campaign. "Shepard's style is really not new, " says Deal. "The difference is that he's very prolific with what he does. It's a graphic style, limited color palette, and with the amount of passion that's in Sanders's overall campaign and what's happening with young people across the country, that sort of propaganda style fits."

The Bernie Sanders "Rise Up" Mural - Timelapse from Gregg Deal on Vimeo.

Deal has no plans to paint over the piece. "I can't imagine that Sanders is out," he says. In fact, he's going to be painting more Sanders-themed murals across the country. "If he wins the nomination, you can count on seeing more," Deal adds. "I heard from someone in Detroit who wants me to come out and do a Bernie mural there. If he doesn't get the nomination, I think that there are still incredible conversations and concepts that are coming from his campaign.

"It's really easy to let those feelings of fear take over and not think critically about them, and those who are thinking critically about those problems are being drawn to Bernie." he continues.

Deal hints that he'll soon paint another political mural in an undisclosed location in Denver — this one depicting Hillary. "My works tend to be political," he says, "so it just kind of fits."

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Lindsey Bartlett is a writer, photographer, artist, Denver native and weed-snob. Her work has been published in Vanity Fair, High Times and Leafly, to name a few.
Contact: Lindsey Bartlett