A Chamblee artist who backed Democrat Jon Ossoff in the heated 6th Congressional District race is trying to cool off the political climate off with some snowflakes and humor.
The artist, who asked that his real name not be published but uses the pseudonym Hamilton Burger, said after the June 20 runoff between Republican Karen Handel and Ossoff, he collected several hundred of their political signs that dotted yards and rights-of-way for months in the hotly contested race that garnered national attention.
And he turned them into snowflakes. Yes, snowflakes, in a not-so-subtle dig at the derogatory word people on both sides of the political spectrum have hurled at each other.
“I know this an insult from both sides, so it seemed appropriate,” he said. “Those who wish to be offended will be offended. I’ve heard all of it. Whatever you’re going to see, you’re going to see.”
The signs appeared the morning of June 28 at several Dunwoody intersections but were also found in Chamblee and other areas in the 6th Congressional District.
City code enforcement officers were made aware of the signs and are conducting sweeps to remove them from rights of way throughout the city, said city spokesperson Bob Mullen.
Mullen said the cleanup of the signs is not expected to incur additional costs on the city because clearing signs from the rights of way is part of the routine sign removal process the code enforcement team conducts for signs placed in the right of way.
Dunwoody Councilmember Terry Nall, a Handel supporter, said he believed the city cleanup “is an unfortunate use of public resources.”
“This morning, I noticed a number of leftover 6th District campaign signs had been modified into whimsical ‘art’ and placed in public right of way,” Nall said in a June 28 statement. “All the signs seem to be slot-cut into shapes of snowflakes and stars. Both Ossoff and Handel signs were modified.
“While I do not know if this was meant to be a political message, a decoration for the upcoming Independence Day holiday, or a prank typically seen on April Fool’s Day, I do know it will be a city expenditure to remove these from the public right of way,” he added. “For a city with a small, lean budget, this is an unfortunate use of public resources. Clearly, someone must have a lot of extra time to modify these signs and then place them around the city.”
A native Atlantan who has lived in the 6th Congressional District since 1973, Burger said the idea of repurposing the political signs came after a discussion with a friend about what was really accomplished after the most expensive House race in history.
“Back in the day there were those T-shirts that said, ‘My parents went to Florida and all I got was this crappy T-shirt,’” he said of the seed for his idea that led to the epiphany, “Well, my district had a $50 million election and all I got were these crappy signs.”
Despite the money spent, the district remained red, he said: “We got a lot of signs and not much difference.”
The signs were also meant to bring some levity after such a passionate campaign.
“I thought it would be a whimsical decoration,” he said of recycling the signs. “And I thought it would make a few people smile after a long, aggravating period.”
And, he said, he knew people would see in them what they wanted to see. An Ossoff supporter, for example, told him he thought a Handel supporter made the signs to poke fun at Ossoff supporters.
He said of Nall’s reaction that Republicans tended to be less comfortable with artistic expression that is a “little bit rebellious.”
“Again, people will see what they want to see in it,” he said. “He saw someone was taking his money., but the city spokesperson said there was no additional cost.”
“Burger” said he drove around for about an hour late Wednesday with a friend and placed the signs at busy intersections where he hoped people would be able to slow and see the signs. He estimated he put out 300 of the snowflake signs.
Creating the signs was simple, he said, by using a computerized cutting machine he has, estimating it took about seven hours.
Finding the signs was not difficult. He plucked a few from the side of the road, knocked on a few doors and asked residents if he could take their signs and went Dumpster diving behind the Ossoff Chamblee office where he got “a pretty good stack.”
He also asked a local code enforcement officer for some signs, and got plenty that way, too. “I didn’t tell him what I was going to use them for,” he said.
He wished there were more Handel signs turned into snowflakes, but said Ossoff easily “out-yard-signed her by a long shot.”
Besides being “whimsical decorations,” Burger said he hoped people would see them and also think about what $50 million could have been used for – filling pot holes and creating new parks, perhaps. He also said the money could have been used to buy voter machines that leave a paper trail.
“This was an obscene amount of money … and I hope people will ponder that,” he said.
And if someone wants a sign for their own yard? “I hope people will pick them up and take them and put them in their yard,” he said.
One person who has done just that is Nina Watts of Dunwoody, who included her own “Game of Thrones” sign that states, “Winter is coming.”
“I want people to keep the election on their minds,” she said. “2018 is not far away.”
Handel defeated Ossoff in the June 20 race for the Sixth Congressional District.