Hope to nope: Artist behind iconic Obama poster disappointed in president

Artist Shepard Fairey.(AFP Photo / Jewel Samad)
He created the 2008 “Hope” poster that helped Barack Obama become president. Seven years later, Shepard Fairey says Obama did not live up to his promise, and blames an out-of-control political system distorted by campaign finance.

Not even close,” Fairey answered when asked whether President Obama had lived up to the promise of his iconic poster, which embodied the Democrat’s successful “Hope and Change” campaign. The Obama-Biden ticket won almost 53 percent of the popular vote, almost 10 million more than McCain-Palin.

Obama has had a really tough time, but there have been a lot of things that he's compromised on that I never would have expected,” Fairey told Esquire magazine. “I mean, drones and domestic spying are the last things I would have thought [he'd support].”

I've met Obama a few times, and I think Obama's a quality human being, but I think that he finds himself in a position where your actions are largely dictated by things out of your control,” he said. “I'm not giving him a pass for not being more courageous, but I do think the entire system needs an overhaul and taking money out of politics would be a really good first step.

While he agrees with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on most issues, Fairey said the campaign finance structure made him “very angry.

There are only certain kinds of people that either have the preexisting resources or the willingness to work in way that will get them a lot of money from donors,” he told the magazine. “That narrows the field right there. “

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Part of the problem, he added, was that the American public was “uneducated and complacent,” taking for granted a lot of things that made life easy and preferring finger-pointing to even the simplest actions that could make things better.

I hate to say Americans are ignorant and lazy, but a lot of them are ignorant and lazy,” Fairey said. “There's a lot of finger pointing and very little action and very little research into the dynamics that created the situation that they're unhappy about.”

A lot of his recent work is about issues arising from corporate interests being more powerful than the people, from environmental destruction to climate change. “I’m not anti-capitalism. Capitalism just needs better referees,” Fairey said.

In 2009, Fairey and the Associated Press clashed in court over the “Hope” poster, as the agency claimed the poster was derived from one of their photographs and, thus, violated copyright. The case was settled in 2011, under undisclosed terms.

A year later, a federal court in Manhattan fined the artist $25,000 and sentenced him to 2 years of probation on charges of evidence tampering. Fairey allegedly tried to cover up the fact that he used an AP photo.

Fairey is currently executive producer of Rebel Music, a web series for MTV that follows young musicians around the world using art as a “catalyst for social change.”

What I am always trying to put across is that, when you have free speech and the ability to have a discourse about challenging things, you better exercise it,” he said.