Artists Shepard Fairey, Carrie Mae Weems, and More Create Art to Mobilize Voting Against Trump

The project, Artists for Democracy 2024, is spearheaded by People For The American Way.

Shepard Fairey, Lift Every Vote (2024). Photo courtesy of People For The American Way

A group of artists including Shepard Fairey and Carrie Mae Weems has been enlisted by the advocacy organization People For The American Way (PFAW) to create art encouraging U.S. citizens to vote against former President Donald Trump ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

“People For The American Way is giving talented artists a voice to express their political beliefs because there are not enough outlets to do so,” Fairey said in a phone interview. “Political commentary is frowned upon because art is portrayed as an escapist luxury for rich people who don’t want to think about injustice. It doesn’t need to be that way.”

The art created for the Artist For Democracy 2024 campaign will be released to the public through prints, merchandise, radio and digital ads, celebrity videos, and bus wraps. PFAW has launched a Kickstarter fundraiser for billboards in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Arizona with the hope of expansion to North Carolina and Georgia. And the group seeks to spur texting and boots-on-the-ground efforts.

Alyson Shotz, best known as a sculptor, said in an interview that she has made a video for the campaign that includes imagery from the civil rights and reproductive rights movements. Her billboard reads “Done With Trump” and depicts the former president with prison bars behind him. She added that she intends to participate in any texting and phone campaigns to encourage voters to hit the polls in November, adding she will be “doing whatever I can.”

“The Gaza situation is very important to me and I think Trump is a much bigger threat on that issue. I don’t think we have a way of persuading Trump on it, but we do with Biden,” Shotz said.

 painting that depicts a human figure with no discernible facial features, standing against a muted background. The body is covered in a vivid array of painted flowers and plants, suggesting a oneness with nature or the concept of the natural body. Above the figure, the letters "V O" and "E" frame a pink representation of the female reproductive system, symbolically replacing the letter "T" in the word "VOTE." This could indicate a focus on women's rights and reproductive issues in the context of voting and political action. The painting combines elements of still life, portraiture, and symbolism to make a powerful statement about identity, biology, and political engagement.

Beverly McIver, Black Beauty (2024). Photo courtesy of People For The American Way

Each of the artists participating in the campaign we spoke to said they would support the reelection of President Joe Biden, though the campaign’s message is more focused on defeating Trump.

“If they have a light system for a panic situation, we’ve crossed over orange into red zone where it’s ‘Save Our Asses’ [as] to whatever it takes to keep our democracy going,” said artist Cleon Peterson, who revealed he was hesitant to join the campaign at first. “Biden is a safe bet at this point and the reason is that Trump and the people on the right have no problem lying and demonizing people.”

Fairey, who is perhaps best known for his Hope portrait of former President Barack Obama, said he applauds PFAW for creating a program that gives artists an opportunity to weigh in, hopefully leading to lesser-known creatives speaking up.

“A lot of artists care but don’t feel they have the outlet for their political voices, so maybe this a great template,” Fairey said.

a stylized portrait poster featuring an older individual tipping their hat in a greeting or salutary gesture. The person is wearing glasses and a gentle smile can be seen on their face. Behind the figure is an American flag motif with a distressed overlay, which adds a sense of texture and depth to the image. The dominant word "VOTE" is superimposed over the flag, suggesting a patriotic call to action regarding the civic duty to vote. The style of the illustration has a retro feel, reminiscent of mid-20th-century American poster art. Additionally, text at the bottom indicates that the image is associated with a group called "People for the American Way."

Shepard Fairey portrait of Norman Lear. Photo courtesy of People For The American Way

PFAW said its Artists For Democracy 2024 campaign will aim to mobilize at least one million Americans in battleground states to go to the polls. The artists have been tasked with reframing and reclaiming concepts such as “patriotism” and the “American Way.”

The organization was founded by Norman Lear, the legendary television producer who created shows such as All In The Family and The Jeffersons. Lear, who died in December, was a “staunch opponent of authoritarianism.”

Artist Beverly McIver, who is participating in the campaign, described herself as a “huge fan” of Lear in a phone interview. She said Lear “sent us messages about the importance of humanity” through his shows. “I know those shows made an impact on my life,” she said, adding that seeing J.J. Walker on Good Times inspired her to become an artist.

“I grew up in the projects wanting to be an artist and the fact that I could see someone like me on television doing it gave me hope that I could make some powerful art that would impact people,” she said. “So, I really want to honor Norman Lear and his legacy.”

McIver, who said she never really thought of herself as a political artist, stated she specifically wanted to create a piece about how important it is for women to get out and vote. Her artwork, Black Beauty, depicts a Black woman covered in flowers with the word “Vote” above her head. The letter “T” has been stylized as a woman’s uterus.

“I wanted it to look pretty so that people will pay attention to it and then make the connection that your rights as a woman around abortion are being threatened,” McIver said. “Yelling at people about things does not work but I think, in the way I painted this image, it’s catching more bees with honey.”

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