Andy Warhol Meets Barack Obama: Q&A with Young Artist Dedicated to the Art of Politics

Art and politics are an unlikely couple but a couple nonetheless. From political cartoons, to satire, to propoganda, to protest, to campaign posters, the two worlds intersect time and time again. President Obama's campaign has inspired some very famous artistic renderings; the most famous of which being Shepherd Fairy's 'Hope' poster. This campaign season has not seen one dominating artistic rendering in the same way, but as-ever politics is still inspiring artists to create; be those creations on the cover of The New Yorker or something more private. 

Eric Giddings, a 25-year-old artist from Maine, found his inspiration through President Obama. Giddings pen and paper depictions of the president are worthy of note. I talked with Giddings about his portraits of Obama, the line between art and propoganda, why the president sparks so much more artistic inspiration than Romney. 

Elena Sheppard (ES): These are really awesome. Judging by your subject, is it safe to assume that you will be voting for Obama? 

Eric Giddings (EG): Yea it's safe to assume that. Dangerous to assume anything beyond it.

ES: What inspired you to create these Obama images? Did any of your inspiration come from the work of Shepard Fairey? 

EG: Julian Jimarez Howard gave me the idea one morning after a recent show at his gallery that we curated of artists from Maine, including myself. Check it out at www.sunsetsurfclub.com or 253 Wilson Ave, Brooklyn, NY.

The idea, its potential, and my unsatiable desire to produce gave me the inspiration.

Shepard Fairey's style and approach was most definitely an inspiration. Straight from the layout to the reason they're free. His imagery has actually been in my life since a young age so more than I probably realize. In the same way, I'm influenced by every elder and everything I've perceived ... I'm trying to get the campaign to use them, Barack.

ES: What is your medium? What do the lines represent and what's the meaning behind the different uses of color?


"The red white and blue represents the US of A."

EG: For the colored ones my medium was paper, pen, and photoshop. For the line drawing it's just pen and paper ... In short, it's about mapping shadows/light. The line is based on proximity.

I'll say the red white and blue represents the US of A. The blacklight resprents The Purple Mountains Majesty and the LGBT community ... 

The ... line represents the food rations line we'll all be in if Obama gets elected. He's a communist, right? Or better yet, coming together as one people. One nation: one line. Or, they're all superficial. However you take it. It's up to your interpretation.


"The line represents the food rations line ..."

ES: Art has been a really prominent part of the Obama campaigns. What do you feel is the role of art in politics?

EG: Art is all over the campaigns. Fonts, logos, flyers, videos, speeches, clothes, haircuts. Everything. Depends how you define art really, it's all the stimulation to get your interest ... I think with this kind of art it appeals to a certain demographic to gain/maintain support.

ES: When portraying political subjects, where do you think the line between art and propaganda is?

EG: Art is open to interpretation? Propaganda has an agenda? The line gets blurred when people work subliminially? ... That's a conversation.


"The blacklight resprents The Purple Mountains Majesty
and the LGBT community."

ES: I notice that you also have a similar portrait of Andy Warhol. What is it about these iconic figures that makes them good subjects?

EG: People take nice photos of iconic people. Marketability. It's intentionally commercial like that.

I find the idea of celebrity and icons and commercialization are interesting. These people are built up to be super human. Something more than they are. Maybe I'll do a self portrait or one of AJ Jones as a juxtaposition to invoke thought on these subjects. The skulls I do are also meant to represent this idea and invoke thought on these subjects. In the end that's all we all are: human. Animal. It's humbling. Maybe I'll do one of an animal.

ES: In a few days, the MET will be opening an exhibit on the influence that Andy Warhol has had on other artists. What influence would you say Warhol has on your work? Did Warhol tackle political subjects through his art?


"He's the epitomy of the subjects he was exploring with pop culture,
commercialization, and industry."

EG: That's good to know. Thanks! I'll try and check it out if I can make it down to the city. Hopefully I will soon. I got people I wanna see and now one more thing I wana do.

He's not intentionally influential but to deny he is, would be ignorant. I hope my work transcends him though. He's the epitomy of the subjects he was exploring with pop culture, commercialization, and industry. So placing images of him among these people makes these subjects obvious, and opens them up for discussion, especially in reference to the groups these icons are indicative of.

That's a good question ... I'm no authority or expert on him. I don't know if any of his intentions were political. I'ma do some research. Do my homework.

ES: Do you think Romney inspires the same artistic fervor as Obama does? 

EG: No, but maybe if it was based around old money bourgouise portraits. Can you imagine if I did a drawing of him?

Check out more of Giddings work here

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Elena Sheppard

Elena is the Arts & Entertainment Editor at Mic. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Salon, Time Out New York, The New York Times Upfront, ABC News, and various travel publications. She is also a Princeton alum, a former Thailand resident, and a Brooklyn native.

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