WASHINGTON – In many ways, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is already larger than life, with an adoring fandom, a rap-influenced nickname bestowed by admirers and two motion pictures depicting her life. But now, the expression is becoming quite literal.

There’s a new mural of the 86-year-old justice near the intersection of 15th and U streets in Washington, D.C. Pedestrians can find the art installment tucked in an alley between Bread Bite Bakery and Flock DC, the Washington, D.C.-based real estate group behind the project.

District of Columbia native Rose Jaffe, 30, was commissioned by the company over the summer to paint the mural, a combination of panels and painting directly on the building’s exposed brick. Jaffe is a self-described “feminist, activist-oriented artist” and said she was “just over the moon” when she first took the project to paint Ginsburg, a hero of hers.

In the mural, Ginsburg is wearing her judicial robes with a signature decorative collar, smiling as she gazes toward the U Street corridor. There’s a flock of birds around her – a reference to Flock DC. The founder and owner of the group, Lisa Wise, told The Washington Post she hopes people will see the birds as a way to “release their own passion.”

“There’s a lot of hope tied up with” Ginsburg, said Wise, 47.

Jaffe finished the mural Monday, and it’s already making the rounds on Instagram accounts.

“The public reaction is one of my favorite parts of doing murals and public art,” Jaffe told The Washington Post. “When it’s outside, it’s for everyone.”

As a female-owned business, it was important for Flock DC to hire a female artist for the project, Wise said. It’s hard to go wrong having a positive conversation starter like this, she said, even if it’s political. The company has always been political and left-leaning, she added.

“I always dreamed of having a really powerful, iconic woman that was on the side of our building,” Wise said. “It made sense to have her be that figure.”

Victor Galindo, who lives a block away from the mural, stopped to take a photograph of the wall Tuesday evening after hearing about the installation from his neighborhood email group.

“It comes at an opportune time, considering what’s going on in our country,” Galindo said. “It’s perfect for us. It’s who we are.”

Ginsburg spoke at the National Book Fair a few weeks ago, discussing her recovery after four bouts of cancer in an interview with NPR legal affairs reporter Nina Totenberg. Ginsburg drew throngs of fans to the event as the court’s oldest member and leader of its liberal wing.

Andy Ford, who used to live in the District of Columbia and was visiting from Ohio for a conference, said he does wonder whether a mural of Ginsburg fits in with the black history of the U Street corridor. Still, Ford, 53, said he loves the mural because of all that Ginsburg has accomplished on the Supreme Court.

“How does that not make you smile?” he said, turning toward the art.

Alex Stoller, 32, works at the design firm Swatchroom and said she’s a fan of Jaffe’s work throughout the city. So far, Jaffe has painted about 20 indoor and outdoor murals across Washington, D.C.

“She does a great job of being organically present in a lot of different facets of D.C. culture,” said Stoller, 32.

Stoller said she sees the mural as “playful but large and in charge.”

Jaffe said the project took 10 days, including work in the studio and on location. For this project, Jaffe said, it was important to nail Ginsburg’s likeness, and she painted directly on panels to capture a “sharper, crisper portrait.”

There’s always a chance the justice might stop by to see the mural on the way to work.

“I hope that she sees it,” Jaffe said, laughing. “That would really make my life.”


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