LiveTalks LA brings intimate conversations with writers, actors, musicians, humorists, artists, chefs, scientists and thought leaders in business to the Los Angeles community. Last night’s special conversation at the New Roads School included two well respected LA figures – Moby interviewing Shepard Fairey.
If you didn’t already know, Shepard is an American contemporary street artist, graphic designer, activist, illustrator and founder of OBEY who emerged from the skateboarding scene. He is also involved with numerous charities in Los Angeles like the Los Angeles Public Library and has a curated gallery space in east LA called Subliminal Projects.
With Shepard’s wife Amanda in the audience, he would deflect questions to her, like “Amanda, what was the best punk rock show we have been to?” Shepard began sharing how he grew up in a controlled environment in South Carolina before heading to college at RISD in Rhode Island. Punk rock and his love of skateboarding seemed to be his escape from such a rigid world.
We took many things away from hearing Shepard’s journey, but here are some of our favorite Shepard Fairey quotes of the night.
Thoughts by Shepard Fairey:
I love public art because it exists where people live their lives.
I’m impactful not because I have original ideas or the best brushstroke, but because I am willing to do the work.
…maybe it’s my love of Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Public Enemy…they share a point of view, justice, fairness, equality, it’s not enough for me just to make visually pleasing images.
Art is a vehicle for conversations among people. It makes me feel not alone…..rewarding interaction.
I consider myself a multi-platform artist; street art is just one of the things I do.
I learned how to do large scale paste images and paint murals 5 years ago.
Art is a healing thing.
(After sharing about his massive Nelson Mandela mural in South Africa where people came up to thank him. Shepard used purple and gold in the mural reminiscent of the 1989 Purple Rain Riot where it was illegal to protest. Police would shoot a water cannon with purple dye at protestors. If you were dyed purple, you would be arrested unless you hid. Protestors leapt onto the roof during this anti-apartheid protest and attempted to turn the jet away from the thousands of Mass Democratic supporters.
I love LA because of the diversity, the opportunities, the amazing amount of culture. The weather is good. I’m going to be here for a long time. I like how the high low cultures mix in LA, the progressiveness of our city.
On mural projects he has worked on in major US cities:
LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said to me, “I got your back from the popo. I’ll let you know if they are coming for you.” This is not the same experience and warm welcome he has endured from Detroit City who is prosecuting him as of summer 2015. Recently, in Jersey City after a massive scale mural that changed the landscape, he was invited back for another mural from the mayor.
On being diabetic:
He flips up his Tee to show us his tattoo spelled out DIABETIC on his arm, a tattoo he felt was needed after almost dying in a NY jail without his meds after being arrested. After that, he said no one now can claim they didn’t know or prove I am not diabetic.
On receiving the biggest compliment:
Shepard shares how he worked 7 days a week in his screen printing studio in Providence, RI making stickers and T-shirts, cutting stickers by hand, having several friends work for him, and how his Sunday night ritual in the 90’s was to take a break to watch The Simpsons, drink a Schaefer beer, and play some pool. So when he was later featured on the Simpsons (Exit to the Quickie Mart as a pun on the Netflix documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop) it was a big deal because he never missed a show. The creator of The Simpsons said, “Thanks for making my show cooler.”
On creating a new art museum:
I never labeled myself a street artist. It was one way of democratizing art. The Inside Outside strategy. Work outside the system. Blaze your own trail.
On believing in your dreams:
You learn to live in squalor.
Believe in what is is you are are doing. If you find value in your ability to do it, then that is what matters.
Do it cheap. Don’t give up.
You are your own harshest critic.
A lot of people fail because they stop when they don’t have quick success.
Do what you believe; things can catch up to you.
On his new book Covert to Overt:
A range meaning covert to overt. It is a compilation done in chronological order, what I think is important of the last 5 years. I maintained the belief to do it myself.
Shepard Fairey’s new book, recently revealed to the public, documents his long career from his most recent evolution from works on paper to grander art installations, cross-cultural artworks, and music/art collaborations. The book also showcases his ubiquitous streetwear and chronicles his return to public artworks. Some may say that his signature blend of politics, street culture, and art makes Fairey unlike any other subculture/street artist working today.
This book also showcases the significant amount of art he has created the last several years: street murals, mixed-media installations, art/music events, countless silk screens, and work from his extremely successful OBEY brand.