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Arts and Entertainment

Plein Air Painting of Bank Freaks Out Police, Bankers

"Chase Burning," courtesy of artist Alex Schaefer
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A plein air painter's series on burning banks has police and bankers genuinely freaked out.

They're worried, of course, that the artist in question might be a terrorist.

Last month the artist Alex Schaefer was working on a painting of a Chase Bank building in Van Nuys. His rendering of the bank was mostly faithful, except that he added flames coming out from the roof, which he said serve as a metaphor for the havoc that banking practices have wreaked on the economy. The painting is an entry for an upcoming show titled "Disaster Capitalism."

The Eagle Rock artist knew that an overt political statement might attract more attention than a pleasant landscape, but he didn't think that he was playing with fire. Although most of the passers-by on the sidewalk gave his work a thumbs-up, one of them felt threatened and reported him.

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The police took down his information as he was painting, and a pair of detectives later paid him a home visit.

"One of them asked me, 'Do you hate banks? Do you plan to do that to the bank?'" Schaefer told the Los Angeles Times.

The banks also seem to be a little on edge about the whole "situation."

"It's a situation we don't take lightly. Hopefully, this is not what his actions are. It's kind of scary — you don't know what other people are thinking. We have to look out for the safety of our customers and employees," said Gary Kishner, a spokesman for Chase Bank.

Schaefer's mother was worried that his employers might not appreciate the extra attention that he's getting from law enforcement.

Of course not! The Art Center of College and Design put it on their blog for all to see.

If you want to support this suspicious character, he's put the painting up on eBay with a starting bid of $920.