The Phoenix Network:
About  |  Advertise
Adult  |  Moonsigns  |  Band Guide  |  Blogs  |  In Pictures

Arresting Shepard Fairey

It's about small minds, revenge, and embarrassing the mayor
By EDITORIAL  |  February 12, 2009

A cynic might argue that anything that publicizes art is a good thing. Art, after all, challenges how you think — provokes thoughts, insights, emotions that otherwise might not be stirred. It also can amuse and entertain. Humans, like so many creatures on this not-so-green planet, are hard-wired by nature with the capacity for a certain amount of physical or intellectual play.

There is, however, little amusing or entertaining — except to the smug, the low-brow, and the philistine — about this past week's arrest of street artist Shepard Fairey, in town for a magnificent exhibition of his work at the Institute of Contemporary Art (so magnificent, we think, that this newspaper has signed on as a media sponsor of the exhibit). Fairey's parade through a number of Boston's neighborhood courthouses by the city's fearless anti-graffiti SWAT team played like a performance from a television sitcom — say, The Andy Griffith Show. Imagine good-old deputy Barney Fife busting through the big, double doors of Sheriff Taylor's office, prisoner dully shackled (Barney was a stickler for procedure) shouting, "Sheriff, Sheriff, I arrested me a real-live artist!"

Andy, being a shrewd and worldly wise sort of small-town cop, would grimace. Then his grimace would melt into a grin. Years of contending with the high jinks of Floyd the barber, Otis the town drunk, Gomer and Goober the local auto mechanics, and the always excitable Barney, had forged in the smithy of Andy's soul a decidedly philosophical temperament. "Aaaaaah Barney," Andy would ask, "What'cha gonna do, charge him with committing art?"

Too bad for Fairey that Boston ain't Mayberry. Nope, here in the big city, when we catch our fish we fry 'em. Some of Boston's finest no doubt have been having wet dreams of nabbing Fairey, an arch fiend if every there was one. Waterboard the bastard? Send him to Guantánamo before that lily-livered liberal Obama shuts the air-conditioned gulag down for good?

Fairey, of course, is not a menace to society (although he has been charged with vandalism). He is, for sure, a threat to convention and conventional thinking. Fairey's mission in life is to stir things up. It obviously pains the Barneys of Boston that the ICA's recognition of Fairey's work — already endorsed by the huge popular embrace of his Obama portrait (see above) — represents a gold seal of establishmentarian approval.

The Burghers of the Back Bay Association are not amused by this. In an e-mail to members titled AWESOME DETECTIVE BILLY KELLY ARRESTS SHEPARD FAIREY, one resident of the neighborhood stops just short of proposing Kelly for an honorary Harvard degree. (You can read the e-mails at The Back Bay Association is firmly against anything new, such as the strikingly handsome Apple building on Boylston Street. The group has little respect for free speech and free expression, regularly campaigning to keep news boxes off even commercial streets. Their group mentality is similar to the one that used to call for books written by the likes of James Joyce and Allen Ginsberg to be banned in Boston. Rooted in a gated-community mentality, they would be better off living in a sun-belt suburb. (Here's a thought: the recently retired George W. Bush might like some new neighbors.) The Back Bay busybodies are even calling for their moneyed members to withdraw support from the ICA. Inconvenient as that may be in these distressed times, we suspect that the ICA will soldier on.

1  |  2  |   next >
  Topics: The Editorial Page , Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Harvard University,  More more >
  • Share:
  • Share this entry with Facebook
  • Share this entry with Digg
  • Share this entry with Delicious
  • RSS feed
  • Email this article to a friend
  • Print this article
HTML Prohibited
Add Comment

Share this entry with Delicious
  •   IMPEACH JOHN ROBERTS  |  February 05, 2010
    It is time for an enterprising and courageous member of the US House of Representatives to file articles of impeachment against the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Roberts. The charge: lying under oath.
  •   TRYING TIMES FOR OBAMA  |  January 27, 2010
    It was only a matter of time before President Barack Obama turned into a deficit hawk. But it is a measure of the desperation sparked by Scott Brown's election to Ted Kennedy's old Senate seat that Obama hatched before the conclusion of the 2010 congressional elections and unveiled a spending freeze.
  •   TEA-BAGGER BROWN TRIUMPHS  |  January 20, 2010
    Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley may be a good person and a dedicated public servant, but thanks to her gut-wrenching loss to tea-bagging Republican Scott Brown in the race for the US Senate seat held by the late Ted Kennedy, Coakley is now — quite rightly — a figure of local scorn and national derision.
  •   COAKLEY FOR SENATE  |  January 19, 2010
    When Massachusetts voters go to the polls on Tuesday to elect a successor to the late Senator Edward Kennedy, they face a choice that is as clear as the difference between black and white.
  •   MENINO'S PROMISE  |  January 06, 2010
    Boston's political tribes checked their traditional hostilities at the door this week when they trooped into Faneuil Hall for the inauguration of Mayor Thomas Menino, who took the oath to serve an unprecedented fifth term.

 See all articles by: EDITORIAL

RSS Feed of for the most popular articles
 Most Viewed   Most Emailed 

  |  Sign In  |  Register
Phoenix Media/Communications Group:
Copyright © 2010 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group