Shepard Fairey: Inspiring A Movement For Change
But what exactly is it that separates him from the hounds of other self-proclaimed artists?
Instead of conforming to the 19th French expression of ‘art for art’s sake,’ 40-year-old Fairey steps to a different beat. He produces stickers, murals, posters, and prints, in the hopes of conveying significant social and political messages.
In a society presumably ruled by corporations and politicians, Fairey attempts to refute the presence of groupthink.
“A lot of people would benefit with fewer voices in society. But these people don’t represent the world,” the influential street artist explained. “It’s not really me against the world, but me for the world.”
After 22 years of practice, 16 arrests and hundreds of images, Fairey’s efforts to not only encourage the “spirit of the underdog,” but also reawaken a sense of wonder in people seem to be working. When focusing on the upcoming generations, it appears that youth and heavy mass media influence go hand in hand. How is it, then, that these same individuals are uniting behind a man who is against this controversial progress of the media? It’s almost paradoxical.
“The Internet has increased peoples’ expectations about success and people are now really impatient. It takes time for ideas to resonate,” Fairey cautioned.
Indeed, his ideas have truly resonated with the masses.
Speaking to an audience that has seemingly lost its sense of wonder and opinion comes across as a futile task, but the reactions to Fairey’s words following USC’s, “Revolution with Shepard Fairey,” on Wednesday, convey differently. Out of the hundreds of students lined up, there was not one who openly disagreed with the clandestine artist’s views.
“His work is the epitome of doing things for the people. It shows that if you manipulate something enough, you can blur the lines of ownership,” explained sophomore Candice Navi.
“The medium is the message,” Fairey repeated multiple times. Through his ubiquitous street art, he aims to remind individuals that society should not revolve around what media tells one to think, but instead should be shaped by what one believes in.
“His message is inspiring, because it shows you that the streets are yours. If you have a message to share- you can do it,” said sophomore Samanta Helou.
Now, even with numerous installations in prominent museums, Fairey continues to take his art to the streets.
“Streets represent a canvas that is accessible to all people. I want to empower people to use art and the streets create this template of empowerment. I want to show people that anyone can leap from doing nothing to that point in life where you’re achieving real things.”
Though many accuse him of becoming ‘mainstream,’ Fairey’s attempts at inspiring and empowering people through his art remain genuine, evident through his continuous actions and beliefs.
“When I’m not up here sounding extremely self-righteous… the process I truly enjoy is just making stuff. Even my wife still gets mad at me because I’m ‘too busy’ with art,” Fairey bluntly stated to a room full of laughter.
While critics call him a sellout for taking on corporate clients, Fairey’s commercial work simply shows that he is like any other creator with a desire to make a living from his passion. Even with so much exposure, he was forced to take on these clients in order to fund his growth as an artist and perpetuate his work.
“My work wouldn’t even exist without these corporate clients,” Fairey explained. “I could not make enough as an artist to fund the scale of my ambitions without doing commercial work.”
He leaves aspiring artists with two pieces of wisdom.
“First, figure out what you can contribute. Develop a high level of dedication about what it is you believe in and about what you ought to be doing and not about what people tell you to do. And secondly, be incredibly tenacious about it.”
Reach reporter Sridevi Reddy here.
Follow reporter Sridevi Reddy on Twitter.
Reach photographer Rébecca Obadia here.
Follow photographer Rébecca Obadia on Twitter.
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