Burning bank artwork leads to police questioning

Three years after the bank bailout saved America’s financial institutions, big banks appear to be more protected than ever, even from a harmless oil painter.

Police have repeatedly questioned a middle-aged artist with an inflammatory political message, while the banks he is speaking out against continue to get bailed out.

“I’m not a terrorist. I’m not firebombing any banks.”

That is the response artist Alex Schafer gave police when he was questioned about his oil paintings.  Schaefer has let out all his frustration with the American financial system – on canvas.

“Bad banks should fail,” said Schaefer.  “Bad businesses should fail.  And a bank is a business and somehow it’s been turned into something else,” Schaefer added.

While artists are known for catching the spirit of the times, Schaefers’ recent paintings depicting bank buildings engulfed in flames caught the eye of the Los Angeles Police Department. Schafer was first approached while painting in front of a Chase bank branch. Three weeks later the police visited his home asking him if he hated banks and planned to do just that – burn them down.

“It’s just bizarre because I don’t feel like I’ve done anything outside of everything I’ve ever done, yet this has really touched a nerve,” said Schaefer.

In recent years it seems like large banks and their bosses have been protected from prosecution for their role in the devastating financial crisis.  Now it appears banks are being protected even from an artist’s brush stroke.  The chaos depicted in Alex Schafer’s painting is just symbolic.  But the financial chaos caused by JP Morgan Chase and other big banks is very real to many Americans.

“It’s a different kind of terrorism that they’re causing,”
said Schaefer.

Since 2008, none of the bank bosses in charge during the mortgage meltdown have done any jail time. Instead, they were the recipients of bailouts and bonuses, while millions of Americans suffered through foreclosure, unemployment and financial ruin.

Schaefer’s flames symbolize bringing the current system down.

“I think we need to reform our banking system completely,” said Schaefer.

Besides the repeated visits from police, Schafer also says recent online visitors to his blog include employees of JP Morgan Chase, as well as members of the Department of Justice.

Shafer maintains a good sense of humor about the ordeal and his symbolic bank burning seems to be resonating with the public.

“I started the bidding off at 920 bucks and its at $10,100 now,” said Schaefer.

That is the big money statement he definitely plans to take to the bank.