Shepard Fairey, artist and supporter of OWS, has created several artworks of and for the Occupy movement. According to a CNN article by Michelle Elam of Stanford University, one of Fairey’s artworks will bring African-Americans to the movement. She gives “You are Invited” much praise, comparing its imagery to the Black Panther movement, and touting its ability to bring racial unity. Elam says:
Indeed, some have called for more black people’s involvement in the movement, but Fairey’s “You Are Invited” goes beyond an appeal for and to black people. Imagine its even more revolutionary effect as a poster carried by people of all backgrounds and social position, symbolically calling for a pan-ethnic alliance.
Simone Wilson of L.A. Weekly questions whether or not the image will help revive the OWS movement and she is right to question. As one of the followers indicated on that very post, Fairey appears to have taken the image of the woman from a vintage Newport cigarette ad. This happening, where an image’s meaning might be complicated or subverted by linkage on the internet, is discussed by Fred Richin as “Hyperphotography.” (Richin)
The woman in this image is not empowered, she is not independent, and she certainly is not standing up against the marginalization of her race. She is subject to the good looks and “cool” of the man before her. This knowledge may subvert Elam’s claims about the power of this image.
Seeing as OWS has struggled with its lack of equal representation, Fairey’s image could end up as salt in the wound. In another article on our site, cjohn1789 even goes so far as to question “Is OWS Racist?” The article references a survey done around the time of the “invitation” by Fordham University (October 14-18 2011) which indicates that 68% of those surveyed in Zuccotti Park were white.The article concludes that OWS is not necessarily racist, but its racial representation is very disproportionate.
It seems like minority populations didn’t receive the invite, or might not have received it well.