Already Sainted in Art: Obama Turns Into an Icon

As I’ve mentioned before, I support Barack Obama. There are a lot of reasons for this, none of which (I am sure) you care about. However, even I am starting to get a little tired of the shovel-fulls of praise lavished upon him. Will.i.am, of the Black-eyed Peas, just released a second celebrity-filled Obama endorsement video, there have been a number of Fairey inspired knock-offs of Obama art, and even some Etsy sellers using his face.

Will.i.am told NPR’s "Tell Me More" that he created the first video because he felt personally inspired.

Fine. Call me a cynic.

My gripe with this love-fest basically centers on what the art and design community is already turning Obama into. Many, if not most, politicians don’t emerge as this kind of iconography until they are at least elected to their position. Certainly invididuals create campaign T-Shirts and buttons that use art other than that "officially" sanctioned by the candidate, but there as always been a limit to how far the campaign entered our daily design life.

As more media attention turns to Obama and his voting record more and more magazines and newspapers are asking if "it is all hype," "can he deliver," and if he’ll inevitably disappoint an electorate with sky-high expectations. Is this the crux of the matter: if Obama can inspire art, the youth, intellectuals, and my dyed-in-the-wool-Republican father, does that preclude practicality? Bureaucracy isn’t pretty, that saying about laws and sausage continues to ring true.

Perhaps it is nerves, as we approach the OH and TX primaries (universally agreed upon as "must-win" states), but I am overcome with the desire to tell these artists to "calm down." We are still months away from the election (even the conventions), lets not burn out on inspiration and joy and love and happiness too soon.

Obama will be a great leader for this generation if he is president or not, that much is already clear. If we saint him too soon, I fear that the good he will do may be overshadowed by all we thought he could do. The primaries need to remain a time for critical examination, and even though I mix Obama Kool-Aid for my friends in TX and OH, I still think that maybe, just maybe, we need to halt the pop-culture machine for a while and talk facts not feelings.

Call me old fashioned if you must.

Ashley Bowen

Ashley Bowen is a former CCT Graduate Student.