Shepard Fairey Visits SFUAD

Bran Ghigliotty - February 18, 2013

"Fairey will be working on a permanent mural on the Santa Fe University of Art and Design campus throughout the week of February 18"

New Mexico chill crept in as the sun set on the Greer Garson Theatre. Queues formed of individuals hoping to get tickets to the event with illustrator/activist Shepard Fairey, perhaps best known for his Barack Obama "Hope" poster, who was in town for a Q&A, Sunday. Their hands shoved deep into their pockets as they waited for the box office to release unclaimed tickets on reserve.

Two plump red seats, aimed at a small round coffee table, created the interviewing space. After a brief introductory video, Fairey and David Grey, chair of the graphic design department, strode onto the stage and took their seats.

Fairey, who grew up in South Carolina, cites his early inspiration as coming from the skateboarding and punk rock a “subculture of rebelliousness tieing art with culture” that he shared with his friends.

Graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in Illustration while taking electives in photography and printmaking, Fairey's BFA in Illustration is a major which, by Fairey's own admission, allowed for the freedom to take electives in photography and printmaking. The latter would become his medium, exciting him because it "allowed him to quickly multiply his work and bypass the gallery system."

The initial audience for Fairey's work was his circle of friends. He turned to making shirts for his friends "because it wasn't legit until you had a t-shirt of it."

“A lot of people get out into the real world and find it cold and deaf,” said Fairey. After graduation, Fairey’s life as a young artist “would have been utopian except I was going really far into debt and living below the poverty level.”

He worked out of a sympathetic Kinko’s print shop after losing access to his school’s facilities turning to “bombing,” putting up his posters and stickers inpublic spaces to “engage with his audience in an unmediated way.”

Fairey’s work is “simultaneously reverant and irreverant” of its sampled subject matter. Inspired by the work of Barbara Krueger, Robbie Conal and John Carpenter’s film “They Live,” Fairey juggles commercial work with more personally satisfying mural work to “create a world more like the one he’d like to live in.”

For Fairey, art provides a service to the world. “Correcting injustice is important, but creating beauty brings people together,” he said.

Fairey will be working on a permanent mural on the Santa Fe University of Art and Design campus throughout the week of February 18. Stop by to see the artist at work and the finished product on the campus' Quad.