It’s Day 139 and I was very excited (and also intimidated) to do today’s tribute piece. I pulled my back out days ago and my muscle is still bugging me! I hate pinching nerves/pulling muscles…it can really eat into your day in a bad way. I still had tons of fun planning and designing my piece today so join me in honoring street artist Shepard Fairey today! It’s also thanks to Marc Maron’s podcast that I chose to do Fairey today since I listened to his interview yesterday. 🙂
Frank Shepard Fairey (born February 15, 1970) is an American contemporary street artist, graphic designer activist and illustrator who emerged from the skateboarding scene. He first became known for his “Andre the Giant Has a Posse” (…OBEY…) sticker campaign, in which he appropriated images from the comedic supermarket tabloid Weekly World News.
He became widely known during the 2008 U.S. presidential election for his Barack Obama “Hope”
poster. The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston calls him one of today’s best known and most influential street artists. His work is included in the collections at The Smithsonian, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Shepard Fairey was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina. His father, Strait Fairey, is a doctor, and his mother, Charlotte, a realtor. Fairey became involved with art in 1984, when he started to place his drawings on skateboards and T-shirts.
In 1988 he graduated from Idyllwild Arts Academy in California. In 1992 he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration from theRhode Island School of Design.
Fairey’s first art museum exhibition, entitled Supply & Demand (as was his earlier book), was held in Boston at the Institute of Contemporary Art during the summer of 2009. The exhibition featured more than 250 works in a wide variety of media:
screen prints, stencils, stickers, rubylith illustrations, collages, and works on wood, metal and canvas. As a complement to the ICA exhibition, Fairey created public art works around Boston. The artist explains his driving motivation: “The real message behind most of my work is ‘question everything’.”
Fairey sits on the advisory board of Reaching to Embrace the Arts, a nonprofit organization that provides art supplies to disadvantaged schools and students. In May 2006, Fairey became a board member of the Music Is Revolution Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports music education for students in public schools.
Fairey created the “André the Giant Has a Posse” sticker campaign in 1989, while attending the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). This later evolved into the “Obey Giant” campaign, which has grown via an international network of collaborators replicating Fairey’s original designs. As with most street artists, the Obey Giant was intended to inspire curiosity and cause the masses to question their relationship with their surroundings.
The Obey Giant website says: “The sticker has no meaning but exists only to cause people to react, to
contemplate and search for meaning in the sticker”. The website later goes on to contradict this statement however by saying that those who are familiar with the sticker simply find humor and enjoyment from its presence and that those who try to look deeper into its meaning only burden themselves and often, end up condemning the art as an act of vandalism from an evil, underground cult.
Originally intended to garner fame amongst his classmates and college peers, Fairey states “At first I was only thinking about the response from my clique of art school and skateboard friends. The fact that a larger segment of the public would not only notice, but investigate, the unexplained appearance of the stickers was something I had not contemplated. When I started to see reactions and consider the sociological forces at work surrounding the use of public space and the insertion of a very eye-catching but ambiguous image, I began to think there was the potential to create a phenomenon.”
In a manifesto he wrote in 1990, and since posted on his website, he links his work with Heidegger’s concept ofphenomenology. His “Obey” Campaign draws from the John Carpenter movie They Live which starred pro wrestler Roddy Piper, taking a number of its slogans, including the “Obey” slogan, as well as the “This is Your God” slogan. Fairey has also spun off the OBEY clothing line from the original sticker campaign. He also uses the slogan “The Medium is the Message” borrowed from Marshall McLuhan. Shepard Fairey has also stated in an interview that part of his work is inspired by other street artists.
After graduation, he founded a small printing business in Providence, Rhode Island, called
Alternate Graphics, specializing in t-shirt and sticker silkscreens, which afforded Fairey the ability to continue pursuing his own artwork. While residing in Providence in 1994, Fairey met American filmmaker Helen Stickler, who had also attended RISD and graduated with a film degree. The following spring, Stickler completed a short documentary film about Shepard and his work, titled “Andre the Giant has a Posse”. The film premiered in the 1995 New York Underground Film Festival, and went on to play at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival. It has been seen in more than 70 festivals and museums internationally.
Fairey was a founding partner, along with Dave Kinsey and Phillip DeWolff, of the design studio BLK/MRKT Inc. from 1997 to 2003, which specialised in guerrilla marketing, and “the development of high-impact marketing campaigns”. Clients included Pepsi, Hasbro and Netscape (for whom Fairey designed the red dinosaur version of mozilla.org’s logo and mascot).
Fairey created a series of posters supporting Barack Obama’s 2008 candidacy for
President of the United States, including the iconic “HOPE” portrait. The New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl called the poster “the most efficacious American political illustration since ‘Uncle Sam Wants You'”. Fairey also created an exclusive design for Rock the Vote. Because the Hope poster had been “perpetuated illegally” and independently by the street artist, the Obama campaign declined to have any direct affiliation with it. Although the campaign officially disavowed any involvement in the creation or popularization of the poster, Fairey has commented in interviews that he was in communication with campaign officials during the period immediately following the poster’s release. Fairey has stated that the original version featured the word “PROGRESS” instead of the word “HOPE”, and that within weeks of its release, the campaign requested that he issue (and legally disseminate) a new version, keeping the powerful image of Obama’s face but captioning it with the word “HOPE”. The campaign openly embraced the revised poster along with two additional Fairey posters that featured the words “CHANGE” and “VOTE”.
Fairey distributed 300,000 stickers and 500,000 posters during the campaign, funding his grassroots electioneering through poster and fine art sales. “I just put all that money back into making more stuff, so I didn’t keep any of the Obama money”, explained Fairey in December 2009.
In February 2008, Fairey received a letter of thanks from Obama for his contribution to the campaign. The letter stated:
I would like to thank you for using your talent in support of my campaign. The political messages involved in your work have encouraged Americans to believe they can change the status-quo. Your images have a profound effect on people, whether seen in a gallery or on a stop sign. I am privileged to be a part of your artwork and proud to have your support. I wish you continued success and creativity.– Barack Obama, February 22, 2008
Fairey resides in Los Angeles with his wife Amanda and daughters Vivienne and Madeline. In addition to his successful graphic design
career, Fairey also DJs at many clubs under the name DJ Diabetic and Emcee Insulin, as he has diabetes.
Very partial biography from wikipedia. It was long so I just included parts!
I know that when I first saw the OBEY Andre the Giant stickers everywhere I was very curious to what it meant and who was behind it. If you’d like to hear the whole story from Shepard Fairey’s mouth listen to this great podcast (it’s great in general…I love Marc Maron and WTF. Best podcast ever in my opinion.). WTF- Shepard Fairey Episode 497
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for today’s piece. Something political? Ironic? Profound? Meaningful? After researching and staring at his art all morning, a random idea came to me. I even looked up the font for OBEY when researching this. I designed it in photoshop…which took quite a while and then decided to put it on a wood panel and paint the rest. At first I thought it’d be cool to make it look like a sticker that was pasted on a lamppost or fence, but then I opted for more color! Red and gold! What could be better than also paying tribute to the great Patrick Stewart/Jean Luc Picard? I hope you enjoy it and I’ll see you tomorrow on Day 140! Best, Linda