Street artist Shepard Fairey, 38, of Los Angeles is in the hot seat.
Fairey created the red, white and blue Obama “Hope,” “Progress,” and “Change” images. Fairey made the iconic image not as part of Obama’s campaign, but because he liked Obama and wanted to show his support, said Fairey in an interview with Charlie Rose.
Fairey, arrested numerous times for graffiti art, sought special permission to create the original poster, not wanting to be a liability for the campaign. Fairey got the okay and even recieved a response from the campaign team asking if an illustration of Obama could be used, said Fairey in the interview with Charlie Rose.
Fairey’s 60-by-44-inch portrait of Obama was unveiled at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
“I think they made the image powerful and people remembered it. But none of that would have mattered if people didn’t care about Obama,” said Fairey in an interview with Smithsonian.com.
Fairey got his start in the 1990s by making black and white motifs of Andre the Giant’s head with the word “OBEY” written below. The images were dispersed in the form of stickers, posters, and stencils.
“Fairey has managed to capture and shape public consciousness. And that, for a visual artist, is no small thing,” wrote Sebastian Smee of the The Boston Globe.
His art work is political, retro, and contemporary. Fairey previously teamed up with Real Skateboards, coming up with a line displaying his artwork.
The controversy is Fairey’s arrests. He has over 14, and was recently arrested for an outstanding warrant from 2000.
The Associated Press has also accused Fairey of using an AP photo without permission. The original photo of Obama was taken by Mannie Garcia in April 2006 at the National Press Club in Washington. Fairey filed a pre-emptive suit based on faire use exceptions.
On a Web site called “Art For A Change,” maintained by artist Mark Vallen, numerous “plagiarisms” by the artist are brought to attention.