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The images that told the story of Kavanaugh's contentious confirmation fight

Brett Kavanaugh's face was plastered on utility boxes around Capitol Hill Saturday after he was confirmed, m...

Posted: Oct 9, 2018 8:50 AM
Updated: Oct 9, 2018 8:50 AM

Brett Kavanaugh's face was plastered on utility boxes around Capitol Hill Saturday after he was confirmed, many torn up or otherwise defaced.

The trashed signs -- which said "Kava Nope" and were made by artist Tracie Ching in opposition to Kavanaugh -- were one of the defining images of the his confirmation, and a symbolic visual for the highly partisan fight over an especially divisive nominee.

Brett Kavanaugh

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Fifty-one percent of Americans did not want Kavanaugh confirmed, according to a CNN poll released Monday. But his popularity has grown among Republicans, and 49 Republican Senators and one Democrat voted to confirm him. Bruised, he made it through nonetheless.

Kavanaugh's confirmation struck a deep political fault line, and it was a story told often in images like the one of Christine Blasey Ford, eyes closed, swearing to tell the truth during her testimony. The opposite of Ford was Kavanaugh's angry and emotional response (which Ching made into a second version of the "Kava Nope" poster, "using the candidate's own facial expression and how he decided to reveal himself," she told Cover/Line).

Before his final confirmation there was the sight of hundreds of protesters filling the Hart Senate Office Building in the shadows of "Mountains and Clouds," a towering, black abstract statue by Alexander Calder that sits in the building's atrium; of women in "Handmaid's Tale"-inspired outfits.

Outside the Supreme Court on Saturday, Miami artist Alessandra Mondolfi stood dead center in front of the building holding a "Stop Kavanaugh" stop sign. She spent 10 hours holding it in the same spot on Friday stone-faced, a "durational performance," she said.

"Images matter," Mondolfi said. "I know how to create images."

She has worked professionally in design and fabrication, making window displays and trade show displays. She didn't start making political art until after Trump was elected.

She said she edits her signs down for maximum simplicity and impact. They're often made on recyclable cardboard, rough around the edges, but "I've never been prouder of my work," she said.

Mondolfi photographs her protest signs and turns the photos into street art. The disembodied hands holding signs keeps the attention on their message, and gives the streets where she puts up her wheatpaste and stickers the look of constant protest. Many of the photos taken by photojournalists recreated the look of her street art in real life, cropping to just her sign and hand for a dramatic shot.

On Instagram, photographer Adrian Wilson mashed up Banksy's self-destruction stunt with the Kavanaugh news. He made two posts out of the idea -- one of the blind Lady Justice and the other of Kavanaugh, both getting shredded. The Kavanaugh one got more likes.

"What is interesting for me is that the justice goddess version is way more true to the Banksy and has a wider message," Wilson said. "But the same image with Kavanaugh takes no thought process so is more popular on social media because it's all about that 'no brainer' quick sucker punch."

The power of simple, bold images was true for Kavanaugh supporters, too. After the Senate voted, a man who had been walking around with a blue "I Like Beer" sign pulled out another, red sign that read, "We Just Keep Winning." His signs, both of them, were unsurprisingly hits among the handful of Kavanaugh supporters who gathered.

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