The Occupy Movement has its fair share of accidental activists, people without political backgrounds who feel a human obligation to take action. Alex Schaefer, an Eagle Rock-based painter, started doing just that through painting banks on fire and selling them on eBay. Something about their shocking aesthetic and timely message had these radical pieces selling like wildfire. The painting of a burning Chase sold for $25,200.
Schaefer’s oil paintings depict Chase and Bank of America going up in flames in an effort to symbolize the destructive effects banks have on our economy. In Schafer’s words: “Some might say that the banks are the terrorists.” Accompanying images include a foreclosed suburban home and Chase-sponsored fake advertisements featuring Cabernet beer bongs.
These banks ablaze have attracted attention from the LA Times, LA Weekly and the LAPD. The police paid Schaefer two visits, asking if he “hates banks” and plans to burn them down. No evidence pointed to Schaefer’s being an anarcho-terrorist with a soft spot for oil paints.
The most fascinating part about Schaefer’s collection is the post-apocalyptic intertwining of his works with the narrative they have sparked. His burning bank pictures are combined with mythical riots, real photographs of police interacting with the works and even a painting of a burning LA skyline with the clarifying label ‘symbolism’ written on top. Fantasy, reaction and commentary become enmeshed and indistinguishable as they are thrown into Schaefer’s flames.