Shepard Fairey leaves artistic mark on hometown

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Charleston has a new set of eyes looking over its peninsula. The 'Obey Giant' icon is now watching over Marion Square and the hometown of its artist.

World-renowned street artist Shepard Fairey is a Charleston native and has been making his artistic mark around town the past week for the Halsey Institute's 30th anniversary.

"It's great to be back in Charleston; I grew up here. It's a beautiful place but I didn't think it would support my art career, so to be back doing a show at the Halsey and all these murals around town is amazing," Fairey said.

With approval from city leaders, Fairey and his team have painted four large-scale murals as part of his 'Power and Glory' show for the Halsey in multiple locations in downtown Charleston, including King Street, Calhoun Street, and on top of the Francis Marion Hotel.

"When I was younger, my parents couldn't even get a new bay window approved by the Board of Architectural Review, so to have my murals going up around these historic neighborhood is absolutely amazing. I'm grateful to the Halsey and the Cultural Affairs Department of Charleston for supporting me because I think this is still a little bit controversial," Fairey said.

Controversial yet creative, Fairey's come a long ways from being known as the street artist and skateboard kid on the block. Fairey says he's been arrested for street art 16 times in his life, once in his hometown.

"I was arrested here in Charleston for doing street art in 1996 -- small fine, spent a night in jail," Fairey said with a laugh.

But there were no arrests over the past week as Fairey and his team using stencils, spray paint, and roller paint worked on the large-scale murals.

"I print the image out on paper and transfer it to the wall with spray adhesive, cut the stencils right on the wall and spray peel touch up, and work across the wall like a grid," Fairey said. "All my techniques have developed out of 'I need to work quickly' because most of the time I was working before the police arrived."

No police, only fans young and old, came out to take pictures, ask for autographs, and get a glimpse of the master working on his masterpieces.

"My advice to any young person who is making art is to just learn all the techniques that you can learn. Take technique seriously but also trust your own vision because you are the only one who knows how you want to express yourself," Fairey said.

Fairey's show at the Halsey Institute to celebrate its 30th Anniversary is titled 'The Insistent Image: Recurrent Motifs in the Art of Shepard Fairey and Jasper Johns.' The exhibition is curated by the Director of the Halsey, Mark Sloan, and opens Thursday, May 22 until July 12.

The exhibition is free and open to the public seven days a week and is also being featured as part of Piccolo Spoleto.

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