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Episode 71
Artist Shepard Fairey

  • 25 min read

Episode Description

A conversation with the artist Shepard Fairey. He is an artist, activist, street art pioneer and founder of the OBEY clothing line, but may be best known for his 2008 HOPE poster that served as the grassroots campaign imagery for Barack Obama’s first presidential election. Urban streets have long been the home of Fairey’s counter-culture images. The word “OBEY” paired with a stylized depiction of Andre the Giant has been an iconic calling card for the artist whose work is now invited to be painted on city walls and shown in contemporary museums.


Craig: [00:00:10] This is Art Sense, a podcast focused on educating and informing listeners about the past, present and future of art. I'm Craig Gould. On today's episode, I speak with the artist Shepard Fairey. He's an artist, activist, street art pioneer and founder of the Obey Clothing Line, but maybe best known for his 2008 Hope poster that served as the grassroots campaign imagery for Barack Obama's first presidential election. Urban streets have long been the home of Fairey's countercultural imagery. The word "OBEY", paired with stylized imagery of Andre the Giant, has long been an iconic calling card for the artist, whose work is now invited to be painted on city walls and shown in contemporary museums. And now, a conversation about the path from condemnation to advocacy with the artist Shepard Fairey.

Craig: [00:01:13] Shepard Fairey, thank you so much for joining me this week on the Art Sense podcast. Shepard, it's a real privilege to have you on the program. So a lot of times with artists I have them kind of start with a hypothetical which is say you were sitting down at at a dinner party next to someone who has no idea who you are or what you do, and they ask, "What is it? What do you do?" How do you describe who you are and what your work is to them?

Shepard: [00:01:42] Well, that does happen. That just happened this past Saturday night. SoI'm freshly prepared to answer that question. While I say that, I'm an artist and activist and I work in various mediums that help me to reach people beyond just the traditional art world. And I'm known for the Hope poster for Barack Obama's 2008 campaign. I'm known for my Obey street art campaign and clothing line, which started back in '89 with a really silly illustration of Andre the Giant and a sticker campaign that came out of that. And I'm also known for the "We the People" posters or some of the "We the People" posters that were done for the first Women's March in 2017 and various other things. I've done a lot of album packaging. But yeah, I'd say to encapsulate all that, I really believe in art as a tool of social commentary and a way to initiate conversations that aren't happening that I'd like to see happen that maybe can have more emotional resonance than other forms of media.

Craig: [00:03:09] I feel like your art, at least in recent years, has kind of had a call to action. Not everyone's art does, but you feel compelled to make work that has a challenge for people to think about a different world, right?

Shepard: [00:03:27] Yeah, and that's been more topical in the last 15 years for sure, since the Iraq war, so maybe close to 20 years now. But even from the beginning, my choice of putting art on the street where it would sit in front of people and make them question other visuals they see on the street, which are usually advertising or government signage, make them question the control of public space. It really played into the concept of the medium is the message and the medium is a medium of questioning, control and structure. And it's a message of, I guess you could say, dissent and disruption. So that's been part of my work for a long time. But I've become, as I've gotten older and more confident in my social and political awareness and and comfortable using my voice, I wanted to make my art function like a Bikini Kill song or Rage Against the Machine song, a Bob Marley song, a Clash song, a Dead Kennedys song, a Public Enemy song. Those are heroes of mine. And there are some visual artists that are heroes of mine. Robbie Conal, Barbara Kruger, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Frida Kahlo.

Shepard: [00:04:49] The people who have used their art to blaze trails, sometimes very overtly, politically, sometimes more. Just about a different kind of representation and point of view. But yeah, I look at art as a great way to share an esthetic vision, but it can go so much beyond that. And when art is about a kind of visual esthetic problem solving, but you are already thinking in the problem solving vein, why not add tackling social issues into the mix? That's the way I've always looked at it. And like I was saying before, The Clash, or, you know, someone like Barbara Kruger who makes, I think, really visually compelling images, but they always have social commentary mixed in. I don't think that you have to compromise. It's not, "well, it's good art for being political art" or "it's good art for being street art". I just think, you know, there's a lot of people who are making art that's good art by any measure, but it also can achieve something socially. And that's what I want to do.

Craig: [00:06:01] If you don't mind, I'd love to go back to the roots. So you grow up in South Carolina and it sounds like the prospect of studying art really excited you and you wind up going to RISD. Where did the first sticker campaign come from? Where did you get the motivation to start slapping st...I'm sorry, bombing stickers around what I guess would be Providence. Is that right?

Shepard: [00:06:29] Yeah, that's correct. Well. It's kind of a you know, a real salad of things that led to it. I grew up skateboarding, skateboarding and punk rock. I joke around and say they saved my life, but they might have actually saved my life. I was not a super happy kid. Growing up in country club culture and South Carolina Prep going to prep school, I went to the same school that Stephen Colbert went to for first through ninth, and my mom was head cheerleader and my dad was captain of the football team when they were in high school. So I was into art. But my love of art was more something that I wasn't upfront about because it wasn't cool to be an artist. And I was I was desperate for social validation, even though I wouldn't have admitted it. And I didn't want to look desperate. But inside I was like, okay. Being a jock is just not an appealing route to being socially accepted. But there's not. That doesn't seem like there's any other thing out there. And then I discover skateboarding and punk rock, which ironically were seen as like very marginalized outcast things. Yet you could embrace creativity in a very cool way through those cultures.

Shepard: [00:07:52] And so that got me into making my own stuff, making my own homemade T-shirts, my own homemade stickers, drawing and stenciling on everything. And it was that combination of my love of art and then the do it yourself culture there that then primed me for when I got to art school at RISD and I start seeing graffiti and band fliers for a vibrant local music scene and skateboard brands always promoting themselves with stickers which are a very inexpensive but effective tool. And all of that sort of comes together. To lead to the happy accident of the Andre the Giant has a Posse sticker, which I made to teach a friend how to make stencils because I was always sitting in the skate shop and in my house cutting stencils. And my friend was bored and said, Teach me how to make a stencil. So I looked through the paper, found this ad for wrestling of Andre the Giant, told him he should make that. He said, "That's stupid". And I said, "What are you talking about? We're going to be Andre's posse". And when people ask, "What's up with the poster?", say, "Sorry, top secret, I can't tell you".

Craig: [00:09:05] It's like Fight Club.

Shepard: [00:09:06] Exactly. Yeah, but this was nine years before Fight Club or whatever, so didn't get the idea from Fight Club. I have been inspired by many things. I was inspired by the movie "They Live", that's where I got OBEY from. But anyway, so I worked on this sticker with my friend Eric, who gave up after getting frustrated. And then I made some stickers at Kinko's and gave them to friends. And quickly it became this secret handshake with a group of people who then had other friends who said, "Hey, where'd you get that sticker?" And I quickly noticed that...something being perpetuated that people didn't know where it came from or what it was. But the right people seem to be in the know was really intriguing to people. And I thought, "well, if that can happen in a really, really narrow, subcultural way, I wonder what would happen to put these images on stop signs and out in public what people are going to think", and also just the mischief of being secretly putting stuff up that was making people curious. And then I looked at it like, "Oh, Rorschach Tests are really fun". Everyone's response is a reflection of their personality and frequently their fears. A lot of the response that, "oh, this sticker is some gang thing or it's a cult thing". And then other people saw it as a little more innocent, absurdist propaganda, something related to music, culture or skateboard culture.

Shepard: [00:10:47] But for feeling somewhat insecure about my place in the world to have something I was making that people were responding to was really cool. But then I decided that can't just be nonsensical. I need to evolve this. So that was when I started to research things like the situation in this international and Heidegger's theory of phenomenology and look at...and of course, Marshall McLuhan...the medium is the message and the concept of the global village. I really did think about how if I put enough of these up in Providence and people start noticing, and within a year I was getting press in some of the local papers about this silly sticker campaign. I thought, Well. You know, take that to Boston or New York and all of a sudden culture, culture just ripples out from these places. And people see it in one city and then they see it in another and they go, oh, it's not just a local phenomenon. And it created this chain reaction for me, you know, me thinking about the control of narrative in our culture and our society and how media functions and a lot of things. It just was like, "Oh, man, I couldn't I couldn't wait to do things that could expand the scale of my project as a case study for how with the right methodology, outsiders can sort of culture jam. 

Craig: [00:12:27] That's really interesting. I mean, it's it almost sounds like you got a degree in psychology because, I mean, it's it's almost a social experiment in a way, or at least in its infancy, right?

Shepard: [00:12:38] Yeah, I did look at it that way. And you know, I was susceptible to the same sort of forces that everyone I was examining was I ego, my sense of having something to be proud of and and and then being validated by people's response and and amused by other responses. Like I'm a lot of the same psychological forces that I would be examining in other people I was exhibiting as I as I did this. But but I but I always tried to be very transparent about that, that when people feel powerless there a lot of times unhappy and frustrated and can behave badly. And I had found this thing that was empowering for me. And so I would honestly talk about that and I would also talk about how feeling voiceless is something that most people don't want, but they don't know exactly how to articulate it. So putting something in public space that some people were getting really angry about saying that's not supposed to be there, I was saying, "but, you know, have you ever felt like you would like to be able to express yourself, that you, as a taxpayer, you as a citizen, would have more of a place in the the dialog of our world?" And and people were like, "oh, yeah, yeah". But to just to see how people are conditioned to falling in line with whatever the dominant authority has, has constructed for you to, for you to believe and follow. And all of those things were things I wanted to explore with that. And then, and that was very general. But then as I progressed with a lot of my ideas, I started to get more topical and it began to coalesce with the OBEY campaign, which was inspired by that word being used in some of the scenes in the movie "They Live"

Craig: [00:14:54] Right

Shepard: [00:14:54] Which is a John Carpenter film that everyone should see. It's a B-movie with somewhat profound ideas in it.

Craig: [00:15:03] You know, I remember South Park one time did a shot for shot remake of that famous fight scene where he was trying to trying to convince the guy to put the glasses on in. This scene goes on for like. Of course, it's Roddy Piper, right? I mean, it's like a five minute fight. But once he puts the glasses on, he sees exactly what was being obscured from his vision. The scales have been pulled back from his eyes, and there are lizard people. All of the messaging that you think is advertising is actually about forced obedience and consumerism. And it's really I mean, it's really interesting for for a B-movie, It's it's kind of thought provoking, right?

Shepard: [00:15:48] Yeah. Yeah. And so I started with with just the the OBEY concept and my. My really, really reduced and refined icon of Andre the Giant, which just became the OBEY icon, so simplified to something that was recognizable from any at any scale, at any distance, and using the word OBEY underneath it. Inspired by Barbara Kruger's use of a red bar with bold future oblique and just the idea of taking obedience out of the the ether and making it concrete to make people have to consider really consciously what they did and didn't want to obey, that was an important step. And then I started to broaden to looking at things like police brutality, surveillance, the the the. Propaganda from elite sources, whether that be the rich or government. And, you know, and then I started to get more more specific about things I would address in my work. As changed over to the 2000 and the Iraq war started, especially in the Bush presidency, which was a very unsettling time for me, but still seems somewhat quaint compared to where we are now.

Craig: [00:17:24] Right, Right. You know, looking at your career, I mean, there are a number of turning points. What do you consider the turning point there? Was the turning point the fact that you were pushed to the point of wanting to advocate for hope, or was it the notoriety that came off of that viral moment?

Shepard: [00:17:47] I mean, the Hope poster was was a turning point in in a lot of ways. But because of the Obama campaign and how really how much that had achieved bubbling up from the underground and in entering the mainstream, at least here and there, you know, I felt like part of the success of the Hope poster was that I had credibility with activists because I had done for various causes. And when I embraced Obama and a lot of people don't know this, but I did the Hope poster just as a grassroots tool on my own. It wasn't done officially with the campaign, but I eventually made 300,000 posters and half a million stickers that were given away and then had a free download of the the vector of the image that could be scaled to any size without loss of resolution, which once that was in people's hands, that went viral everywhere. But I would look at the Hope poster as one of the first things I did that decided to endorse someone politically rather than just criticize someone politically. And so it was it was a little bit of a risk because outsiders rarely really endorse anything because of the thing or person you endorse ends up disappointing you. Then the entire perfection police will will will hate you forever after that. But that was a risk I was willing to take because I had a young daughter and a second daughter about to be born.

Shepard: [00:19:29] And I was just like, "this underground purity contest doesn't really achieve much in the in the muddy real world. And I've got my kids to think about not just my image". To answer your question, finally, after a lot of setup, sorry to see what that image achieved virally and how people responded to it both very positively and very negatively, and how it made me more of a lightning rod than ever, but also somewhat of a household name. I have to say that it was stressful. It was exhilarating in some ways and very stressful in other ways, not just because I ended up in a lawsuit with the Associated Press about about copyrights. And so I made the illustration based on an on an AP photograph. But know the pressure when you're in the public eye. But I did learn a lot from that. And I think that I've I've understood the responsibility of being in the public eye and adapted my ways of communicating to be, I think, more more responsible with that with that platform I have. And not that I think I was irresponsible, but I was very off the cuff with a lot of things I would say and do. And, you know, people love to quote you out of context once you're quotable.

Craig: [00:21:07] Maybe you could talk about just how crazy your life became in the years after the success of that, because, you know, you gained a great deal of notoriety, but you also became a big target, right? Again, you mentioned the AP lawsuit. It's obvious they were wanting to make an example of somebody that had a great deal of notoriety. And then there's also the fiasco of what the Boston Police Department wanted to do to you on the eve of your first museum show, right?

Shepard: [00:21:37] Yeah. Yeah. And I think they were all all somewhat related in that the Boston police also wanted to make an example of me because I had allegedly put up a bunch of posters in Boston and and I was on NPR talking about street art and saying that I chose my locations for my street art very carefully to be respectful of of of property. But that's always a subjective interpretation. And and that I believe that there there needs to be outlets for expression in public. And if one has to bend the rules to do so, then I think that's that's okay, because there are plenty of people with a ton of power that figure out ways to bend the rules or break the law and never have any accountability for it. So I looked at it as me expressing a bottom up power to the people philosophy. And the Boston police were actually listening to that NPR interview and did not like that at all. So I got arrested and charged with 32 felonies on the way into my first museum show. Then shortly after that, I was hit with a lawsuit over the Hope poster.

Shepard: [00:22:57] And, you know, I frequently work with photographers and compensate photographers because I do believe that if I'm working from a reference that often the right thing to do is to compensate the photographer. And the other thing I've done a lot of times is shoot my own photographs or work with organizations that provide imagery for me. I'm working from references, but I always felt that in certain circumstances, fair use is essential because when you're making political statements with art, the photographer or the subject may not approve of that usage. And yet you, as the as the social commentator, should still have the right if your image you're making is visually transformative and conceptually transformative to comment because it's a really important part of social and political dialog in our country. So when I was sued, that's why I was defending myself. And the AP is a very powerful organization. They hired a really good law firm. I eventually settled with them. But what unfortunately happened was people tried to look at this as a binary thing in the same way that people are now looking at the Lynn Goldsmith, right? Is the Prince...

Craig: [00:24:22] Right. The Andy Warhol - Prince...

Shepard: [00:24:25] Yeah. Lynn Goldsmith is the photographer, I think. But where I actually think that Warhol's work is a's a great example of fair use. It's actually less transformative than my Obama illustration was. But the there are there are gray areas, and the Andy Warhol Foundation is sitting on a huge cache of valuable intellectual and physical properties. And they and I think that they should have probably offered to share the revenue from that magazine cover with the photographer. But now, if people are trying to make it binary that like know, let's reduce the latitude for fair use or increase the latitude for fair use or keep it as is, I definitely will side with keeping greater latitude for fair use. You know, I'm just a reasonable person and I want everyone to be happy when I'm making art. If there's any building block that came from another came from another source, like there is always, whether it's science or literature or filmmaking, everybody's building on what's come before them, right? But I just try to I just try to do what I think is the is the ethical thing to do. And I'm now in a position financially where I can I can make sure that people are making money from the things I'm making money from now. Early in my career, I couldn't afford to license photos. I had no money. So I hate to think, "Okay. Yeah, I'll side with the narrower interpretation of fair use because I have the luxury of being able to afford to license things", while I'm throwing people under the bus that are just getting their footing now, that work in the ways that almost every artist does, which is using references in some part of their process.

Craig: [00:26:27] But the thing is, when when the AP came after you, they didn't come after you for what would be the $3,000 licensing fee for the photo. Their price tag they were trying to throw at you was something rather punitive, right?

Shepard: [00:26:41] Yeah. $9 million.

Craig: [00:26:46] (laughter) Ugh.

Shepard: [00:26:46] I mean, you know, the the amount of revenue I got from from that was very small. And then after investing in the materials that were given away, I think we had 20 K left, which, by the way, was donated to the ACLU. So...(laughter)

Craig: [00:27:06] So let me ask you about your work moving from the streets and from political activism to to the galleries and the museums. Coming from RISD, I mean, it always had to be in the back of your mind. But was it something that was a goal or is it something that was a progression? And you just found yourself one day in a conversation with Jeffrey Deitch and now you're in this different atmosphere?

Shepard: [00:27:35] Well, I studied illustration at RISD. I did a lot of work in printmaking and graphic design and photography. But of course, the the the ideal for most people going to art school and thinking what if they if they could just wave a magic wand, what they would create for themselves is that they'd be making, whether it's paintings or anything else, they considered their, their fine art. And when I say fine art, I just mean it's the ideal, pure version of your vision without having to worry about other other people's agenda or financing or anything. And so of course, I always saw that as as something that would be cool. But I looked at my other my other priorities as democratizing work, connecting, connecting with an audience that doesn't normally go into galleries and museums and using tools and mediums that would allow me to be very prolific and disseminate a lot of work, even if that meant I couldn't make these more precious things that are what you normally see in the art world. Now, eventually I was able to do both. And so when people say, when you go, Oh, going from this to this, it's not going from from street art and posters and stickers to the galleries, it's adding to street art and posters practice that also is in the galleries and museums.

Shepard: [00:29:16] So I just have to make that really clear because always I'm asked like, "Oh, do you think you're betraying your your populist roots by being in a gallery?" Well, no, because I'm still doing all this stuff on the street. And if somebody doesn't like a gallery, they don't have to go. They don't have to go to a museum. But I always loved going to galleries and museums to see the things that they had to offer that really were what people can do when the normal other pressures that we all complain about making us compromise under, we're less of a factor. And, you know, not to sound snooty or highbrow or anything, but I do believe in that adage that art elevated to a set of principles is the creation of culture. And when I'm doing my thing, that's engaging with less elite culture, but also trying to do my thing that can that can be relevant within elite culture, there's a spectrum that makes sense. And so that's just all part of my strategy of reaching people in a lot of different ways. And I love the idea of drawing a crowd that normally is only into, you know, rebellious, transgressive street art kind of stuff and sneaker culture and streetwear and pulling them into the gallery to see what it means to take the time to really embellish surfaces and build up layers and go beyond just the graphic image that you might see on Instagram or on a or printed on a t shirt or a poster or a sticker.

Shepard: [00:31:06] Because I think that there's there's a relationship between those things, but there's also something that's richer and deeper about the fine art. And that's important to me. It's not exclusively important to me, but it is very important to me. And so also those people that only care about those precious things saying, "Yeah, but you know, there's a whole strain of this that exists out there and maybe you don't like that the, that the, the peasants have access to it." But, but you could look at it like if you think this is we're living in a declining culture, you know people are becoming less sophisticated. Maybe you could maybe you could respect this as a strategy to elevate some of the dialog in the normal, mundane public space. So I know those are those are big aspirations. And I don't mean to sound pretentious at all, but I care about what I'm doing.

Craig: [00:32:11] Yeah. I mean, so what I'm hearing there is that it's really an avenue for you to expand your conversation to a whole wide range of audiences, right? Being able to take your existing following that may come from counterculture and introduce them to a fine art world, but also introduce people that are highbrow, upper class, introduce them to a world of counterculture and the art of the streets. And so it's, you know, the aspiration sounds a little bit like bridging and expansion, right?

Shepard: [00:32:53] Exactly. And there are other people who have done it, but not with the same, not necessarily with the same real strategic approach. I think that Raymond Pettibon, you know, coming from doing stuff like flag and fliers and inspired by underground comics, and now he is showing it the best galleries in the world and has had museum shows. But but he's he's somebody that is much more esoteric about what he's doing and happy to just let the various audiences wrangle and struggle with what he's putting out there without without a lot of editorial addition from him and that's cool. But then you take somebody like Barbara Kruger or Jenny Holzer, and these are people who. Yeah, they're in museums. They're in really good galleries. But they take on, they take on social causes intentionally and use their allow their work to be used for things intentionally. I definitely think that they were big inspirations for me and I'm using a lot of the same strategies. You know, there are other people I don't know whether you know Robbie Conal's work. 

Craig: [00:34:15] Yeah

Shepard: [00:34:16] He was a huge inspiration for me and but. Banksy is somebody that does work on the street, but largely to document it either for his own social media and knowing that that's where he's going to get the most views and the biggest audience, not not actually by people who encounter it in person. He's very, very smart about. How his work is going to go viral and how his history around what he does is going to. Fuel a lot of excitement about the next thing to pop up. And then he shows. You know, he does show sometimes in museums and galleries, but it's all driven by by the by the ideas in the work. And so, yeah, I'm definitely not alone in my approach.

Craig: [00:35:20] I've had Raymond Pettibon on the broadcast, really interesting conversation, you know he thinks...I think he thinks as much about what he says as he does about the visual. And so it's you know, it's interesting when you mentioned Pettibon, Holzer, Krueger and when I look at your work, tell me about the power of the written word, the power of text and its role in communicating in art.

Shepard: [00:35:49] Well, I think that, of course, language is really, really valuable. The picture might have one way of provoking or seducing the viewer. And then the text might actually amplify that or it might contradict that and how these things work differently in each person and and everyone processes text and images different cognitively. I think that it's a really valuable component. And there are some images that I make that I don't think need text. But I definitely like text. And I wouldn't say that I'm a I'm an extraordinary writer, but I think I'm a good enough writer to really add value to my work with text. And a lot of times it's very succinct. It's succinct phrases. I will write additionally about my work to explain it, to say my, my, my Instagram or my Facebook following. Because even though I like latitude for interpretation, I also don't like to be misunderstood. But I think that a...also text can with a heavy image text can provide a little bit of humor, a little bit of levity to offset the heaviness of the image, and vice versa. Sometimes when an image comes across as decorative, a bit of jarring text can reframe what the image is conveying. So I recently did an image that's sort of an Asian inspired scene of a wall with bougainvillea and a son and a bird perched on on a ledge. That image is actually in the Dallas show. It's in one of the murals and in a paper piece. But then but then next to it, it says, "another day in the coal mine". And the idea is playing off the canary in a coal mine that when the air quality is going bad, the miners would know because the canary would die. Well, the whole planet is a coal mine now, so you've got this really beautiful thing. And then this text and loosely inspired by Rachel Carson's "The Silent Spring". You know,does it bother you? The idea of a world without birds chirping? It bothers me.

Craig: [00:38:29] But tell me more about the show that's currently at the Dallas Contemporary. It's backward forward. It's your latest work. It's kind of the latest iteration. How would you describe what viewers would see there?

Shepard: [00:38:42] Well, the the show is dealing with a lot of the things that are recurrent subjects, themes in my work. So, climate change, environmental destruction, abuse of power, racism, sexism, xenophobia. And yet I think that there's evolution in a lot of the techniques. One of the new. Things going on in the show is I have I have a whole series of modular pieces that use for panels. I have smaller ones that are made up of four 12" by 12" panels and then and then larger ones that are six by six feet that are made up of four 36 inch by 36 inch panels. And in my work, I've often created an image that I knew would be part of a bigger composition, including other imagery that that image would be having a dialog with. I also have always worked in a modular way because of grids, of posters and patterns, large scale variation for what I do on the street, which then translated to the esthetics of my painted murals as well. But it started when I was doing everything by wheat, pasting up printed and pre painted paper pieces. But these new modular pieces were a way for me to experiment and break from my paintings looking like a resolved poster composition. Not that I don't still do work like that, but I'm sure you're familiar with William Burroughs cut ups and then how David Bowie really embraced that and this idea of as a as a creative person, you start you you start off with you can do anything.

Shepard: [00:40:40] Then as you refine your style, your focus gets narrower and narrower. And sometimes you need an intentional device to open the lens back up. And and I'd say that those pieces are working like that. They also the relationships between the imagery and the different panels in the series called "Modular Discourse" . That dialog is sometimes a dissonance and sometimes a reinforcement, but it's...I think it's been a really fun process to work on those pieces. I'm excited about them visually, and I'm excited about the various ways in which they could be interpreted, but still leading back to themes that are important to me. So latitude is important, but also that that I...I think that I'm at least generally speaking, bringing up the topics I think are important to bring up and making people think about those topics. So, yeah, it's a series of works I'm really happy with. It's my largest body of fine art in a new show ever. There's 144 pieces of fine art. There's no printed pieces in the whole show, with the exception of printed posters in one of the two murals that's installed in the space, there are two murals paint in the space, one painted, one we pasted to show the different eras of my technique.

Shepard: [00:42:06] And then I also painted a mural out in public, right? The title "Backward Forward" is pretty obvious, but I feel like socially with "Make America Great Again" and I don't know again, I don't know when it was ever greater. But you know, as we see the the the slow arc of progress moving back to when women had few fewer rights or people of color had fewer rights, was that when some people think it was great? It's not when I thought...think it was great. So I'm looking to the future to make it greater. And it's just looking at the regressive nature of a lot of the ideas going on politically right now and critiquing those, as well as providing some hopefully better alternative ideas for the future in the work. But yeah, my approach has been a lot less about finger wagging and, and being dogmatic or didactic and much more about trying to invite people into into seeing where I'm coming from, or at least a friendly debate, not them being scolded, because I think that pushes people away. I don't want to reinforce tribalism, even though sure, I love it when people say, "Hey, I like where you're coming from in your work. I agree with you", but I don't want that to be to the exclusion of people that disagree.

Craig: [00:43:48] You know, I saw the show. It certainly comes across to me as a position of advocacy. There's a lot of work to look at. And you're right, it is a great opportunity for someone to come in and see an added level of materiality and layers and a use of transparency and layers of information akin to Jasper Johns or someone. Right? And so, Shepard I know. We're we're out of time. But I certainly appreciate you taking time out of your day to talk to me about your your life, your work, your passions and all of the topics that are so important to you.

Shepard: [00:44:26] Yeah. Thanks, Craig. Thanks for having me on. Yeah, I appreciate you checking out the show and thanks. Thanks for giving me a little bit more of a megaphone.

Craig: [00:44:40] That's all the time we have for this week. You've been listening to Art Sense. You can find the show on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher Radio, Spotify or your favorite podcast app. If you've enjoyed this podcast, be sure to subscribe. And while you're there, please rate the show and leave a quick review. Your feedback is the key to other folks finding us. And if you'd like to see images related to the conversation, read the transcript and find other bonus features. You can go to and click on the podcast tab. If you'd like to reach out to me. You can email me at Thanks for listening.

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