SAN BENITO — The wall outside of Notorious Cutz, a well known barber shop here, has girl power written all over it.
What used to be a plain white wall now has the larger than life image of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wearing a crown, adorned with an aqua aura around her. The word “notorious” is next to her to pay tribute to the nickname given to her based on the famous rapper Notorious B.I.G.
The artist behind the mural is Alexander Gonzalez, 27, better known as Pop Culture, from Alamo, who has been painting for more than 13 years. Gonzalez just started painting murals around the Rio Grande Valley and started this art series with a Kobe Bryant tribute in McAllen.
“It is my passion. For so long que yo he querido pintar,” Gonzalez said in Spanish, saying he had been wanting to paint again for a long time.
This year, he decided to venture onto the path to mural painting.
“Me dije a mi mismo let’s do this,” he said, saying he told himself to finally go for it.
Gonzalez was the first muralist to paint Vanessa Guillen in Donna. Guillen was a 20-year-old U.S. Army soldier who was murdered on April 22, 2020, inside Fort Hood, Texas.
Because of his mural, Gonzalez was all over the news, including international media outlets.
“I was all over the U.S. and Mexico. The outcry of her mother made me want to paint her. Nobody was doing nothing,” Gonzalez said.
He added his mother encouraged him to create an art piece for Guillen after they both watched her story on the news. Since then, the Rio Grande Valley community has supported him and encouraged him to keep painting.
“I have around $2,000 of paint, puros botes,” he said, adding he has enough paint bottles to keep going for a while.
When it comes to his most recent work in San Benito, Gonzalez said many people reached out to him to paint Ginsburg.
“A lot of people were in my inbox saying I had to paint her,” he said.
Gonzalez was originally going to paint her in McAllen, but the plan fell through. He was contacted by the owner of the barber shop to do it on the wall of his business. Coincidentally, both Ginsburg and the business shared a nickname.
Gonzalez said Ginsburg represented female empowerment, and that is what he has gathered from the reaction of people after they see his mural.
“It is empowerment for women. Le da fuerza a las mujeres a que sigan más allá,” Gonzalez said, saying he saw her as an example of the power that women use to keep going farther in their goals.
“I do see there is empowerment. If she can, you can too,” he said. “I am a minority and I have to do something about it through paint. She was her voice through the Supreme Court and this is my voice,” he said.
The mural took him around 14 hours. He started at 9:30 p.m. and left at 5 in the morning the next day. Gonzalez works at night in order to keep the sun from bothering him. The inspiration for the mural came from an image he had seen, but it was a simple black and white. Gonzalez decided to add more color to it with the aqua aura and the yellow crown.
“The owner was debating about vandalism but to this day none of my murals have been vandalized. Right now, the reaction from the community is they have respected her,” Gonzalez said.
“A lot of women of all ages comment and tell me thanks for painting her. This is for them, for the community, for everyone who comes to San Benito,” he said.
Gonzalez added he would like city government to encourage and support this kind of art.
“In San Benito there are a lot of beautiful walls and I want to get with the city to see if they can sponsor a mural or bring artists to paint these walls,” Gonzalez said.
“There is a lot of talent and artists in the Valley and probably two of the 50 I know are painting because they don’t have the resources or support. We need more support. I am glad I had the chance of painting her here” he said.