gratitude has a posse.

The one class I really needed in art school was marketing.  Who would have thought that an artist had to be so tough?  Ultimately the artist has to be brave enough to tackle the market.  It’s rough and filled with rejection.  Some are born with enough passion, determination, perseverance and creativity that no wall is off limits.  For this post, I thought to write about the brave souls who do it for the importance of expression.  Maybe in part, it’s the rush of getting caught but most have something to say and it’s a way to be heard.  Occasionally, you have to grab the bull by the horns and find a vacant wall.  Call it vandalism, expressionism, advertising for the soul but don’t dismiss it as ‘a power-house of pure business.’

Basquiat and Haring were New York artists who used graffiti as a platform for their art during the 80’s.  Tangerine has been in the media lately for her powerful graffiti to free Ai Weiwie, who is being detained for his explosive political statements against Chinese government and its attempt to control the freedom of the people.  Cpak Ming  pioneered “flash graffiti”: flashing supersized projections onto buildings for a split second for the same cause.

Graffiti is active.  Sidewalks, trains, London, Barcelona, San Francisco, the west bank wall between Israel and Palestine…a few places to find works by the anonymous contemporary prankster,  Banksy.  His Graffiti  is rude, funny, political and  notoriously distinctive.  Riding the wave of his popularity, Banksy produced a documentary about the making of a graffiti artist, ‘Exit through the gift shop.’ It’s an interesting film that brings to light the profits of the graffiti industry.  Most recently Banksy published ‘Wall and Piece’; a book described as ‘a coffee table landmine.’

“Question Everthing” is the message in Shepard Fairy’s graffiti.  He grew up on a skateboard in SC, graduated from The Rhode island School of Design as an illustrator/graphic designer and was noticed for his “Andre the giant has a posse” graffiti sticker campaign.  His graffiti created attention and he received work from Pepsi, Hasbro, Levi’s, Saks fifth Avenue and various musicians.  His success allowed him to take on the most important and yet controversial project of his career…a poster that would endorse a popular political candidate and become the most iconic, widely seen artwork in recent history.  “I did purposefully try to make the poster something that I thought could cross over that would have enough appeal to my fan base to stylistically work for them and also not be quite as edgy or threatening.  To be sincere.  And patriotic. The people that hopefully this image will appeal to is the person on the fence.  It needs to be something that is non-threatening.  Something-this sounds really corny-but something that would maybe be hopeful and inspirational.”

Shepard Fairey with his Hope portrait at the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art

The poster was a heartfelt endeavor . It brought great publicity and a 3 year legal battle with the Associated Press for copyright infringement.  Fairey used a photo from AP photographer,  Mannie Garcia as a guide for the poster.  Fairey stated “ I altered the original with new expression and meaning  and did not create the art for personal gain”;  that he used only a portion of the Garcia photograph; and that his use “imposed no significant or cognizable harm to the value of the Garcia photograph any market for any derivatives; on the contrary, it has enhanced the value of the Garcia photograph beyond measure.”

While the AP owns all rights to the photo and brought about the lawsuit, Garcia said “If you put all the legal stuff away, I’m so proud of the photograph and that Fairey did what he did artistically with it and the effect it’s had”

Fairey created the iconic ‘Obama’ for posters, banners and stickers during the 2008 presidential election campaign.  The Obama team initially declined to be involved with Fairey and later embraced him with a request to change the poster from the label Progress to Hope or Change.  “I chose Hope because I think a lot of people are complacent and apathetic because they feel powerless.  The first thing to motivate people to action is a level of optimism that their actions will make a difference.  Hope is important because so many people feel hopeless.”

I used quotes from Fairey here that i found on a  blog (acai-fan).  I thought these comments from Fairey added understanding to his work.  The legal battle with AP was recently settled out of court.

If I were a little braver, alot younger and more willin, I’d graffiti vases of flowers on needy walls as a reminder to passers byof the beauty in unlikely places. “How about that Banksy?”…. maybe too in the box.

“Speak softly but carry a big can of paint.”  Banksy



  1. Lisa, I see those roses in a big wall, powerful!! sometimes is only matter of scale I think that’s the advantage of the graffiti artists, also of the muralists,
    The blog is really informative, and I like how that quote inspired you to do the flowers. Well done!

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