On November 11th, 2017 I had the privilege of attending an exclusive art premier of the one and only, Shepard Fairey. Naively, I can honestly say I had no idea I knew who he was until after I was already in line waiting to see his exhibit. He was an artist unknown to me at least, but what I could see immediately is that he was making an impact with his art and furthermore was utilizing it to communicate his message and beliefs. He truly had the ability to create the type of buzz in downtown LA as you would expect from a celebrity or media mogul. The venue was hidden from the public until the night before an email was sent with the location. The exclusivity of it and the fact that when we arrived there was already a line more than 3 blocks long of people waiting over 3 hours to see his art with a likely chance that they won’t even get in. Like most I was intrigued to say the least. The location was in a two room warehouse, in what my uber driver called a “sketchy” part of down town LA. I could see purple lighting and smoke coming out from the crevices and cracks of the warehouse as we eagerly waited our turn.
The ware house was filled with his amazing art pieces scaling two large rooms with over 200 pieces of his masterful and colorful collection sending messages of peace, hope, diversity, and political freedoms. Although I feel most of it speaks for itself certain pieces had a way of cultivating you as you look through the art to find the many hidden messages it is conveying, as Shepard takes you through his expression of political, cultural and societal views. The exhibit will be available to the public in downtown LA for the next month, with prints available for sale, on your way out. On my way I distinctly remember doing a double take as I passed the artist, Shepard Fairy on my way out. He stopped for a moment to shake hands with and old friend and then took a few more steps and stopped to look up and take a moment to see to enjoy his art as much as we did taking a moment to embrace the exhibit.
What I gained from watching his newly released documentary is his true understanding of how his art connects to him, his past, and how he has been able to impact so many. He has matured as an artist and learned how to communicate his provocative messages through his art to captivate his audience and furthermore communicate an important message to them. His most inspirational pieces being political statements however his earliest pieces is what makes him the most inspirational to me. The amount of work and courage it took to make such statements and also the potential consequences of sending the wrong message was something he was careful of. Shepard has a gift and a burden and has mastered manifesting it into a business, a fan base, and a potential prophecy. His story is one of feeling frustrated with societal restrictions as he strived and dreamed to make a living doing what he loved instead of being criticized and shamed for not obeying certain societal norms. Using key words like “Obey” and “Hope” is one of Shepard’s marketing tools he creatively used to illustrate the values, concepts and feelings that people around him were yearning for in a way that communicated the struggle each was going through.
One of his most famous pieces became a pivotal part of the Barack Obama campaign and his campaign to spread hope. In a way I interpreted his art as simply asking us to NOT obey certain societal norms, to look through another’s perspective lens and see if you can open your eyes enough to empathize and to truly see something you didn’t before… and that my friends is a powerful message.
Brave, creative, rebel with a cause but in the right ways like he did using his art as expression and relief. He is an artist, an activist and a father who with persevered the abuse and scrutiny of critics, the AP, and certain members of society. He was the first artist to hang a 3D exhibit from the Eiffel tower and continues to send messages of hope as he most recently supported the Women’s March with creating a custom piece to lead the March seen below. Shepard actually attended with his family and daughters in support. Most of all what I have learned as he says in the documentary “its more common to go against things, its harder to stand in support of something. That takes courage. That’s brave.” And I would like to add it’s different and beautiful. Now that is a message I can get behind!