A Casualty Of Politics?

A year ago today history was made when the first African American was inaugurated as President of the United States of America. Like with any anniversary, one looks back to the past to reflect and contemplate the future - but today is, unfortunately for Barack Obama, not just any anniversary - today represents the end of a year that had been fueled by a historical Democratic political campaign, declaring 'Change', 'Hope' and 'Yes We Cans' which have resulted a year on in a disappointing chorus of 'No We Can't'. But apart from the promises that Obama has been unable to meet on both national and international stages that only highlight what Presidential life is like when it is shared with Senates and Congress, I want to ask what position the power of art now takes, having played such an important role in the election campaign of 2008, when Obama's approval rating has dropped by thirty per cent with only a popularity of 50 per cent today? His rise to power played with ideas of a Superman figure, battling between good and evil, that was so successfully driven by the Obama campaign and adopted by the world's press, it awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize for what seemed to be based on only a series of promises. The artist Shepard Fairey undoubtedly played an important role in the candidacy. Art critic for The New Yorker, Peter Schjeldahl, called Fairey's 'HOPE' poster, "the most efficacious American political illustration since 'Uncle Sam Wants You'". The artist created the iconic design, originally featuring the word 'PROGRESS', independently from the Obama campaign with Fairey taking the position as a visual commentator with a passion for politics and the power that poster art inherently possesses. Once campaign officials embraced the popularity Fairey was generating, a series of revised artworks featuring the words 'CHANGE' and 'VOTE' were released with record-breaking distribution numbers of half a million posters, cementing his name in history and all the success he could ever hope for. Fairey's art was everywhere and on everything around the world, teamed with Obama's growing celebrity status, his career propelled him to take on corporate commissions for the likes of Saks Fifth Avenue, publications and into the world's most prestigious collections including The Smithsonian, MOMA and the V&A. But with the world's most recognisable figure inseparable from an artwork and style that is so recognisably Fairey, are there consequences for an artist who has displayed such a personal allegiance towards a Superman that in reality, is just another politician? Does the artist have responsibility for attributing to the power of electioneering - for contributing visually in order to place a figure in politics that happens to helm the most powerful country on earth? Very little can be done in a political year and 2009 has experienced exceptional circumstances. There is no reason why Obama cannot achieve all that he has promised in time, for if anyone is to cease from war, bring America's healthcare system into the twenty-first century and improve climate change to name a few, he is the man to do it. But there are obstacles that may never be jumped over and with the ever-increasing criticism of the inexperienced President, is it possible in a world of makes-and-breaks for Sheperd Fairey to be a casualty of politics?