The color of money: Bushwick artist is changing the face of currency

The color of money: Bushwick artist is changing the face of currency
Danielle DeJesus

Greenbacks are getting more colorful!

A Bushwick artist who paints pop culture figures on dollar bills will display her money masterpieces at a Boerum Hill art show opening on July 15. She says that inserting black and Latino figures on her cash is a way to represent people of color in a place previously reserved for white men.

“It felt almost empowering to put someone of color on a bill and bring so much attention to that person, it becomes something different,” said Danielle DeJesus. “It’s empowering — it feels like you’re taking away the power from something that kind of controls the world.”

DeJesus started her project after seeing the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” which casts people of color as the country’s founding fathers. Smitten by the show, she painted its writer and lead actor, Lin-Manuel Miranda, over Alexander Hamilton’s face on the $10 bill. She continued by painting some of her favorite pop culture figures onto other bills, including painter Frida Kahlo, rapper Biggie Smalls, and undead prankster Beetlejuice, among many others.

Using cash as a canvas gives the images an allure that other formats cannot match, she said.

“I really like the idea of the shock factor — the fact that I’m painting on something that people cherish so much,” said DeJesus.

The Bushwick native is no stranger to unusual canvases — last year she created Etch-A-Sketch portraits of her home neighborhood, and she painted a mural on the wall of the 83rd Precinct police station. But working on money has given her work extra currency — the images have gone viral on social media, and several celebrities have shared her paintings, including actress Laverne Cox, who shared DeJesus’s rainbow-hued image of her last month.

“Spike Lee posted my work, which was pretty cool,” said DeJesus. “The fact that people like my work, is something special. They like my work and want to share it with the world — it’s really exciting.”

DeJesus hopes that the virtual crowds will turn into real viewers at her opening.

“I’m hoping I get a good crowd, I have a bunch of people who follow me on Instagram — people who I never met that are responding really well to my work,” said DeJesus. “When you have a following that doesn’t know you personally but loves your work and comes out, that’s special.”

“Danielle DeJesus Solo Art Show” at Grumpy Bert [82 Bond St. between State Street and Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill, (347) 855–4849, www.grumpybert.com]. Opening reception July 15, 7–9 pm. Exhibit open through Aug. 14. Free.

From the block: Bushwick artist Danielle DeJesus, who paints people of color on legal tender, will display her work at Grumpy Bert gallery starting on July 15.
Danielle DeJesus