NPR logo From Hope to Hero: Political Art In Election 2008

Decision 2008

From Hope to Hero: Political Art In Election 2008

On yesterday's show, we focused on the impact of political imagery — specifically the iconography surrounding Sen. Barack Obama. Here, News & Notes producer Roy Hurst, who attended both political conventions this summer, expounds on the issue in word and video:

No candidacy in recent history has inspired more artistic expression than Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

During the 2008 election year, Obama imagery seemed to be everywhere — on walls, on bumper stickers, on clothing, and on the Internet.

The vastness and variety of Obama paraphernalia has generated untold sums of money and become both a cottage industry and an arts movement. Meanwhile, for better or worse, Barack Obama's image has become an icon.

The creative push of support for Obama has its roots in black culture, in youth culture, and in a general feeling of uncertainty among everyday people about the future of world.

With two wars, a sagging economy, and a deteriorating environment, many Americans yearned for something new in national politics.

Obama spoke directly to that yearning, and has become a symbol it.

It all seemed to start with an image called "HOPE" by guerrilla artist, Shepard Fairey. The image is rendered in red, white and blue, and features the face of Sen. Obama looking upward and outward to the future, above the word "hope."

Earlier in the year, reproductions of the image began to pop up in public spaces across the country. It seemed to be on the vanguard of a wave of artistic political expression that followed.

By contrast, Sen. John McCain's campaign seemed to focus on the imagery of the candidate's past. We saw photos and video footage of "McCain the soldier" and "McCain the POW." With these images, his campaign emphasized the theme of "Country First."

We've compiled a few video examples of election images below. Some are focused directly on the candidates; others are more ambiguous. We've also recorded interviews with an array of artists, vendors, and supporters of the two candidates.

Check out the first video below, as there are more to come. Hopefully, they will serve as a small record of this unprecedented season of artistic expression during Election '08.

— Video Produced by Roy Hurst