Earlier this year, the nation mourned the death of Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Now, a three-story mural is going up in the East Village in her honor. The mural will celebrate the life of the Brooklyn-born justice and trailblazing feminist. ELLE, a New York City street artist, is painting the larger-than-life portrait. We had the opportunity to speak with ELLE about the inspiration behind the mural. She told us “New York has been through such a tough year… we wanted to give a gift to the city, a beacon of hope, something to look up to.”
On September 18, 2020, Ruth Bader Ginsburg died of metastatic pancreatic cancer. That morning, ELLE received a phone call from TaskForce, a Los Angeles based creative agency. The organization, in partnership with IntoAction, oversees art projects that promote public opinion and policy on social dilemmas. They thought ELLE was the perfect artist to paint the mural of Justice Ginsburg.
ELLE could not have been more excited by the opportunity to paint Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She usually does not paint portraits of specific women. Rather, ELLE paints universal “peaceful warriors,” colossal figures that watch over the city streets and represent the female as a whole. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an exception. The Supreme Court Justice, who fought tirelessly for equal gender opportunities, was a fearless warrior for all women.
ELLE describes the Ruth Bader Ginsburg mural project as the “perfect marriage” between self and subject. Ginsburg was the second woman in history to be appointed to the Supreme Court. Within her 30 years of service, she paved the way for gender equality in the United States while helping to create laws under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Her policy reforms were ground-breaking in the fight for women’s rights.
Like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, street artist ELLE also advocates for the female voice through her work. ELLE is a self-given moniker which means “she” in French. She chose the nickname to empower women. “I saw a huge lack of representation of women in graffiti on the streets of New York. It reminded me of every other job and position where men are always in charge and women are not represented. I wanted to them give them a voice,” says ELLE.
Originally, ELLE and her creative team wanted to find a location near Midwood, Brooklyn, where Ruth Bader Ginsburg grew up. However, finding wall real estate in the area proved too difficult. Eventually, through the L.I.S.A Project NYC, they finally found a building on 1st Avenue E 11th Street in Manhattan. The wall used to be the site of Shepard Fairey’s “RISE ABOVE” mural. When the wall was chosen, it was falling apart from the building’s pipe damage and weather corrosion. Before getting to work on the art, the whole wall had to be resurfaced.
According to ELLE, the Ruth Bader Ginsburg mural still has a long way to go. While the face of Ginsburg is almost finished, the painting is less than halfway done. When complete, the mural will also feature motifs of the Supreme Court justice’s legacy. Iconic symbols of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty represent Ginsburg’s New York City roots. Additionally, ELLE will paint the turquoise ceiling of the U.S. Capitol Building and red flowers to symbolize Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s pursuit of justice. Many tributes to the late justice popped up all over New York City when she passed, and more tributes, including a statue in her hometown of Brooklyn, are still to come.