Friday, February 22, 2013

Shepard Fairey's Newest Artwork

Shepard Fairey - Artistic interlude and stencil scrap
Guerrilla artist and noted badass Shepard Fairey passed through Santa Fe this week. He was the guest artist for the Santa Fe University of Art and Design's (formerly the College of SF) Artists for Positive Change series. Last year's guest artist was Public Enemy (not a joke). Admirably, they nearly topped that get by landing the most important current artist in American underground and pop-art. Fairey made it clear at the beginning of Sunday's Q&A at the Greer Garson Theatre that he accepted the guest invite on the spot after hearing he'd be following Public Enemy - the major influences in his work being skate culture, rebellion, punk and hip-hop themes, the contradictions of materialism, and being awesome.

Fairey's Public Enemy

The guy built his fame through an ambitiously prolific street-art campaign of 'OBEY' images, often accompanied by a minimalist print of wrestler Andre the Giant. The image had no broader meaning other than its own ubiquity. It carried the street ethos of expression free from commercial reward. OBEY stickers and stencils were scattered everywhere in the mid 90's, first in every major U.S. city, then Europe, then Japan and Korea - all canvassed by Fairey himself in night-long bombing sessions. I can recall seeing dozens near the CU campus in Boulder in the late 90's and wondering wtf. The wife remembers them from our days in Pittsburgh.

The underground enigma thing he had going rocketed into the mainstream when his later work included the iconic red-blue Obama 'Hope' image during the 2008 election cycle. He now hangs out with comedian Dmitri Martin and Metallica's road manager. Led Zeppelin used his work for the cover art and liner notes of their anniversary best-of album. He collaborates with the Black Keys on their concert tour posters and with street-art king Banksy out of the UK. He submits pieces for Time Magazine covers. He designed graphics for a Discovery Team bike that Lance Armstrong rode in a stage of the Giro d' Italia. And he came to Santa Fe for three days, talked with the art students here on how to make it professionally, then put up a mural in the center of campus for me to visit during my weekend outings.

Best question from Sunday's Q&A session:  'Is Sheena, or isn't she, a punk rocker'? Fairey was wearing a Ramones shirt and rockin' the addidas.

Much more on Fairey and his work at


  1. OK, this was a fantastic post and a great read but I confess to several times looking to see if I was still on the Desert Dirt blog. Radical street art commentary, hints of other lives in Boulder and Pittsburgh.. Oh, and ubiquity, which I had to look up but which also now comes to mind.

    But then, there have been those times when an injury could have meant death -- the accounts of roaming the mountains in the darkness and running alone miles from anyone -- and of bicycling where a broken brake cable might mean the same thing...

    Folks, there's a lot more to this mild accountant than meets the stereotype of the mile mannered accountant. Right on, brother!

  2. PS: Pittsburgh. Home of August Wilson and Mean Joe Green, Mary Cassatt and Demi Moore, Andy Warhol and Mr Rogers. Where it takes three rivers to carry away the rust and spectacular post modern architecture looms over the ghost of downtown. I have a few fond memories, riding the incline with a long legged dark haired girl named Valerie. Of a Hasidic Jew, hands clasped behind his back, peering through the glass of a bagel shop in Squirrel Hill, home of my first ex wife Sheila.

  3. Yes - There's a lot of adventure and inspiration out on the trails or in the hills, but it's not a monopoly. There's inspiration all around if you're willing to look for it, and recognize it when you see it.



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