Get our free newsletter
Two Januarys ago, after the inauguration of the 113th U.S. Congress, the legislative body hit a new milestone: At 102 senators and representatives, the portion of women on its roster hit 19 percent, an all-time high.
Artist Stephanie Rudig, a designer at National Geographic Kids magazine who’d worked on an infographic series about changing race and gender demographics in Congress (spoiler: they’ve remained largely static throughout history) wanted to commemorate the moment. “I was kind of inspired by the…chaos surrounding that, during that campaign—-how the legit rape comment from [former Missouri Rep.] Todd Akin and stuff like that that were affecting how women operate in politics,” Rudig says. “I wanted to commemorate the female members of Congress and their service, to pay respect to them.”
The products of Rudig’s nearly two-year-long project, a portrait series called She-Span that renders every woman in Congress on an oversized stippled sticker, appeared on trash cans, light posts, and utility boxes across the city this weekend. On Sunday, she dispatched a team of 10 friends to post each drawing, which takes the form of a large sticker, on the street named for the state the legislator represents. (The senators and representatives from California are the exception; there are nearly 20 of them, and California Street is only a couple of blocks long, so Rudig scattered their portraits in other areas of the city.)
Rudig had set herself a deadline of the start of the next Congress’ term, which officially began on January 3. “I thought being a day late was not too shabby,” she says.
Each piece took Rudig at least five hours to complete, and at first, she did her drawings on 18″ x 24″ stickers. “I don’t know what I was thinking. That was crazy,” she says. “After 20 or so, I thought, ‘I’ll be doing this until I die.'” Most of the stickers ended up the size of a normal sheet of office paper.
“I kind of did them randomly to keep things interesting,” Rudig says. But there was still room for a little home team advantage: She started with D.C.’s very own delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, whose picture naturally resides on North Capitol Street, because “the District needs to be first at least occasionally.”
Rudig’s posted photos of her finished pieces on Tumblr, Twitter and Instagram under the moniker Judy Doom, and some of her subjects have taken notice. Rep. Kathy Castor and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, both of Florida, sent their remarks on Twitter.
@RosLehtinen The only crime here is the underrepresentation of women in politics!— Judy Doom (@JudyDoom) January 4, 2015
Hawaii’s Rep. Tulsi Gabbard commented on an Instagram photo of her portrait.