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Worldwide there are few who wouldn’t recognize President Obama’s 2008 “Hope” election campaign poster. This now ubiquitous blue and red image, designed by graphic artist Shepard Fairey, contained a photo of Obama taken by Associated Press photographer Mannie Garcia, and became the iconic image of an iconic election in 2008. It also seemed to seal President Obama’s grassroots fanbase; here was a man who not only raised the largest portion of his campaign money in small increments from the common man as opposed to the traditional few big donors scheme, but also inspired accessible almost street-art. Fairey’s poster, and the deluge of artwork created for and about Obama in 2008, cemented the idea that even if our president is a former academician, he can be understood by and empathize with the common man.
Now in 2012, Obama’s reelection campaign is looking sparse. There is no unforgettable image of the President offering hope, no street art, commissioned or not and many are beginning to ask why. Several of the artists who created election posters for Obama’s 2008 campaign say simply they have not been asked to create artwork for the campaign. Others point to Obama’s inability to follow through on the promises he made to artists including increasing the budget of the National Endowment for the Arts, which was recently slashed for the third time in three years.
While there are undoubtedly artists who support Obama, either they are not making art supporting his bid for reelection or that artwork is not getting the resulting press coverage and mass dissemination that Obama’s 2008 election did. With elections coming up in November there is still time for someone to create the iconoclastic image of Obama’s reelection campaign, the only question is if anyone will.
Shephard Fairey working on the Hope poster.