Street artist Shepard Fairey is world renowned for his iconic Obama Hope poster and graphic designs promoting political causes, but the activist is also known for his artistic approaches to getting the world to “wake up” to climate change and protecting the planet.
Now a new documentary, Obey Giant, explores Shepard Fairey’s life, his art and what drives him. The documentary, from director James Moll and executive producer James Franco, charts Shepard Fairey’s early influences of punk rock and skateboarding and how that led to his street art.
In Obey Giant, Shepard Fairey also discusses how he uses his art to work for social change. He also talks about the pop art-like Hope image of Obama, which catapulted him to fame globally, but also landed him in court in 2012.
Shepard Fairey admitted to fabricating documents and lying in a civil lawsuit brought against him by the Associated Press for use of the Barack Obama image used in their poster, which they claimed they owned the copyright to. He describes that period of his life as: “the first time I felt so overwhelmed that I did something cowardly”.
The release of the film ties in with an art exhibition in New York’s Chinatown, Damaged, which features 200 new paintings, prints, and illustrations focusing on topics that range from Wall Street excesses to destructive environmental policies. The exhibition runs until 17 December.
Shepard Fairey’s stunning and colourful mixed media portraits set out to provide balance, and seeks to support the transition from crisis to change. Through paintings, sculptures, etchings and stencils, he explores the damaged state of politics, human rights and the environment.
The artist and activist says his aim is not to tell people what to think, but rather to encourage them to think. Speaking about the environment, Shepard Fairey says: “My political stance on protecting the planet is driven by my concern for the quality of life for future generations. When I look at the motives of those who deny climate change, they are not driven by a quest for truth, but by greed or, in the case of politicians, the benefit of aligning themselves with certain corporate donors.
“The correlation between Carbon emissions and climate change is virtually unanimous in the scientific community. I’m not an alarmist, but I do think people need to understand that we are facing an earth crisis. If you aren’t a bit concerned about climate change, what will it take… NYC and Bangladesh under water?”
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea