Art Show Paints Vision of Obama’s Campaign

Posted August 27, 2008 at 8:13pm

The sign read “Colored.” Beneath it was a drinking fountain spewing a rainbow against a black-and-white backdrop — an emblem not of a segregated past but of a hopeful future.

The painting, by Chanel Kennebrew, is one of many on display at the Manifest Hope Gallery in Denver, a collection of artwork inspired by Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) presidential campaign.

The event, which closes today, is sponsored by MoveOn.org, and was organized to be a vehicle for grass-roots Obama artwork. More than 80 artists with varying styles contributed artwork to the event, and one artist’s work has become a staple of the campaign itself.

Shepard Fairey’s “HOPE,” “PROGRESS,” and “CHANGE” posters have been in wide use by Obama supporters. They all feature Obama’s face and the circular red, white and blue campaign logo.

“It’s just an incredible exhibit, aside from the message, even,” said Leslie Weiner of New York City, a friend of one of the gallery organizers. “It’s just interesting how this iconic art has become so important to the campaign.”

The Obama campaign’s central themes are apparent in many of the exhibits.

Scot Lefavor’s “Change” is a series of six signs painted in 1960s pop-art style. Each sign champions a “manifest” ideal, such as responsibility or knowledge — perhaps a reference to the country’s historical Manifest Destiny.

Lefavor’s “manifest acceptance” sign depicts a white man shaking a black man’s hand, part of a recurring theme of racial harmony on display at the exhibit.

“Some of the pictures speak to change, some of the pictures speak back to history and the changes that have been made in the past,” said Kris Francois of Denver, who attended the event.

Ron English’s portrait of Obama and former President Abraham Lincoln’s faces molded into one visage is a prime example of such change. It calls to attention not only the Senator’s ties to Lincoln’s home state, but the ghost of slavery, an institution ended by Lincoln’s administration.

Though most of the art was hopeful in nature, Aaron Axelrod’s smeared-ink depiction of a warped Declaration of Independence portrayed a far bleaker outlook.

The idea, Axelrod said, was to represent “the distortion of our laws (and) the deterioration of our country.”

Pete Yahnke’s painting, “Uprising,” perhaps best reconciles the two views of hope and dissatisfaction. Against a white backdrop, two black hands clutch drumsticks suspended above a red drum, the word “uprising” scrawled on its side.

The gallery will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday at a garage at 2990 Larimer St. in Denver.