Detroit Artist Invited to Take Part in Inaugural Events

Detroit Artist Invited to Take Part in Inaugural Events

Vote for Change

The imagery of the Barack Obama campaign for presidency will undoubtedly be seen for years to come. From the beautiful “O” logo found on official campaign swag to Shepard Fairey’s iconic portrait in red and blue, the art of the campaign was of a level far beyond what is usually seen in American politics. Galleries around the country are celebrating with special exhibitions of the hundreds of works that sprung from the art world spontaneously, and the campaign itself is preparing several special presentations of artwork that it either adopted or commissioned for its message. Native Detroiter Tristan Eaton created some of those works used by the campaign, and has been invited to take part in a special exhibition in Washington D.C. that will run January 17th to the 19th entitled Manifest Hope.

Tristan has been kind enough to provide with a preview of a mural he has created that will be unveiled during the festivities. Take a look below!

Born in Los Angeles in 1978, Tristan began pursuing street art as a teenager, painting everything from billboards to dumpsters in the urban landscape wherever he lived, including London, Detroit and New York. Eaton designed his first toy for Fisher Price at 18 years old and has since become a driving force in the world of ‘Designer Toys’. As a creative leader in the world of advertising, Eaton regularly consults such brands as Hasbro, Pepsi and Nike on many creative projects that span the globe and cross all mediums.

Tristan’s work can be seen at the Cooper Hewitt Museum and in the permanent collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).

Tristan is currently the President and Creative Director of Thunderdog Studios, Inc., a prominent New York based Designer Toy Brand and Creative Agency and resides in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

How did you get involved in the Obama campaign?

I think I got lucky actually. I was initially contacted by an art director I know named Peter Cortez about doing posters for the campaign. Peter is an art Director at SS+K, the Advertising Agency that handled much of Obama’s youth marketing and he thought I’d be a good fit. We had worked together about 5 years ago when he was with the Japanese advertising agency Densu. After much brainstorming, I ended up designing 3 posters for them which were pasted up in all the swing states and some were made into stickers and web animations. The Gas Pump, Rosie the Riveter and The Ballot Box.

“As a graffiti artist turned illustrator turned toy designer, Brooklyn’s Tristan Eaton embodies the kind of hybrid multi-tasking style that is the hallmark of the modern urban artist. Moving from pencil and paper to paint brush and canvas to Macintosh to city wall, Eaton switches gears effortlessly, refusing to commit fully to any one medium as he goes.”- Jamie Oshea, Former Editor, Juxtapoz Magazine

After the success of the campaign, we felt like we had a lot more to offer, so we launched This is where you could download the Obama Portrait poster that I created, paper cut-out toys, get voting info and track the progress of the Obama bike project etc. It was basically an initiative to inspire our fans to get up and vote. Our fans are typically 18 to 35 year olds who spend a lot of time on line, buying toys, sneakers and art. Basically, the exact demographic that registers to vote but don’t actually show up. Knowing that every little bit helps in the election, we felt that if we could energize a few people in our fan base, it would be worth it.

Explain Manifest Hope and how did you come to be involved in it?

Manifest Hope is an exhibition highlighting the power of art in our society and it’s ability to change our world and more specifically get Barack Obama elected president! The show is curated and hosted by artist Shepard Fairey who designed the formal Obama portrait for the campaign. The show opens this friday and has an opening celebration Monday, January 19th in Washington D.C. It should be an amazing show. There are over 100 artists participating and De La Sol is performing at the gallery on the 19th! Crazy!

What are you doing for Manifest Hope for the inauguration and will you be working with them beyond the events this week?

Barack ObamaBarack Obama, Tristan Eaton

For the Manifest Hope Exhibition, I created a 5 foot tall canvas painting based off of the portrait poster I did of Barack Obama. For the poster, I hand-drew then digitally layered over 300 images to make up the large portrait. I wanted the portrait to show imagery that not only represented Obama himself but also the crazy times we are in economically and socially.

To create the painting, I printed out each image, one by one, then meticulously glued them to the canvas, layer after layer to recreate the effect that the poster had. It took forever, but the final product was well worth the work. Underneath the portrait is a larger pattern of imagery made up of actual campaign posters and other imagery of mine that I washed out with white to fade it into the background. The last step was building up the contrast of the portrait with some washes of white acrylic, and presto! It was done. Some of the under-layers still come though subtly, which I like. Even though the piece is dominantly black and white, there are small hints of the red, white and blue from the campaign posters showing through.

Are you still working in Detroit and what are your plans for working in Detroit in the future?

Yes, as much as I can. I regularly collaborate with the Royal Oak sneaker boutique Burn Rubber (I have an installation in their store right now), I also just released a Detroit toy available at Lift Toys in Royal Oak and I plan to be showing with C-POP Gallery again soon. But of course, I’ll be back to work on the next Sneaker Project with YArts at the Detroit YMCA too. A lot of exciting stuff in Detroit for me!

Anything else you’d like to say to the art lovers in the D?

Stay strong and stay creative! Detroit’s in a very difficult time right now and people look to artists to cheer us up and keep us positive! Go D!

UPDATE: View pics of the pre-inauguration bash held at Manifest Hope Gallery in DC: