Wall Street’s Fearless Girl statue may not be afraid of standing up to the patriarchy, but facing down a school shooter is something no child should have to brave. That’s the message from artist Manuel Oliver, who gave New York’s most famous feminist statue in some extra armor last Friday, when he dressed her in a bulletproof vest emblazoned with the hashtag “#FearfulGirl.”
The guerrilla art piece is aimed at encouraging voters to cast their ballots in favor of candidates who favor stricter gun control laws when they head to the polls for today’s midterm elections. The cause is personal for Oliver, whose son Joaquin “Guac” Oliver was murdered along with 16 other victims at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, this past February.
“She can’t be fearless if she’s afraid to go to school,” wrote Change the Ref, Oliver’s pro-gun control nonprofit, on Twitter, about the rebranded “#FearfulGirl.” The organization is dedicated to using “urban art and nonviolent creative confrontation to expose the disastrous effects of the mass shooting pandemic,” according to its website.
Oliver has also made a series of ten 3-D printed sculptures—a reference to the ongoing debate about the legality of 3-D printed guns—depicting children cowering under their desks to hide from a school shooter. Each statue in the series, titled “The Last Lockdown,” is engraved with disturbing statistics about gun violence, such as “22 kids are shot every day in America.” This fall, they toured voter-registration drives around the country.
Last week, Oliver and his wife Patricia also traveled to Boston to unveil a 90-foot-long billboard featuring their son’s portrait and reading, “If I had attended high school in Massachusetts instead of Parkland, Florida, I would likely be alive today” and “Gun laws save lives.” In late October, they displayed a life-size statue of Joaquin, which they dubbed a “3-D printed activist,” in Times Square.
“The reality is that if we want to keep [our children] safe, ironically, we should ask them to wear bulletproof vests,” Oliver told the Huffington Post. “A hundred people will die today, another hundred will die tomorrow, and after one year, 30,000 or more will die from gun violence. Our son happens to be one of these victims. You don’t need your son or yourself to be one of these victims.”
Fearless Girl has been facing down Wall Street’s Charging Bull since March 2017, when it was installed for International Women’s Day as a viral ad campaign by State Street Global. The sculpture, by Kristen Visbal, became a viral sensation and was later criticized when revelations emerged that State Street settled a lawsuit alleging underpayment of women and minority employees. Nevertheless, the city has largely embraced the monument as a feminist icon, and Fearless Girl will remain on permanent view downtown, although there are plans to move it to the New York Stock Exchange.
See photos of some of Oliver’s other projects below.
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