Shepard Fairey's In Town, Doing Up West Dallas

The view from the foot of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge is about to get a lot cooler. This afternoon a spotless rented silver minivan pulled up at 331 Singleton, a vacant West Dallas office space with a large, invitingly blank outer wall. A group of four guys rolled from the van and started unloading things onto the ground: plastic paint bins, cans of spray-on adhesive, a paint-splattered, non-matching set of aprons.

"If there were a theme to these murals, it's peace and harmony," said Shepard Fairey. He wore a black zip-up hoodie and battered sneakers; now in his '40s, his blonde hair is tinged with gray. He unrolled a set of renderings and showed them to us. All the images are done in bold outlines of red, white and black; he pointed out one of a lovely woman with her eyes closed, a rose in her hair and a peace sign pendant around her neck. "That's a portrait of my wife meditating," he explained. "But the peace sign is subtly in there."

Fairey's in town for the first time in almost 10 years as part of a partnership with the Dallas Contemporary. The museum invited him to do a series of murals throughout this week all over West Dallas; he began today with the building on Singleton. They'll celebrate on Thursday with a DC members-only book-signing event, followed by a free discussion that's open to the public. There's also a "commencement" celebration scheduled for Saturday, a "neon-themed dance extravaganza" for which you can purchase tix here.

Fairey pointed out another image of a woman with her eyes cast upward, next to the legend "Rise Above."

"This is based on a few different references," he said. "It's no one specific. It's this idea of defiant positivity." Behind him, his team of three guys hopped on motorized lifts and ascended to the top of the building wall. They took paper stencils of the designs and started to affix them to the building with adhesive spray. They'll spray-paint the images, then remove the stencils and fill in the rest with paint. The wind buffeted them around the tiny platforms of the lift and wreaked havoc with the paper stencils they were trying to unroll. They barely seemed to notice.

"I try to incorporate a little bit of humor in my images," Fairey said conversationally, one eye on the crew. He showed us one slogan that will go on the building, which read something like: "This has been called to your attention so you will know it has not been forgotten: PEACE."

"I have this idea that peace should be the status quo, rather than conflict. Unfortunately, it's the other way around," Fairey said. The murals will also include some abstract floral patterns, each bearing his "Obey star" in the center. Those were inspired, he said, by Hawaiian quilt designs. Although the museum asked Fairey to come, he's financed the cost of bringing the crew and materials in himself.

The property owners -- Stuart Fitts, Phil Romano and Butch McGregor -- showed up, looking just a bit apprehensive. "We appreciate the space," Fairey told them, shaking each of their hands. They chatted politely for a while about the Dallas art scene, the ridiculous wind that was slowing down the pace of the work.

"We wanted to see what he was putting up before giving him carte blanche," Fitts told us. Behind him, a larger Obey started to take shape on the far left edge of the wall. "But it's fine."

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Anna Merlan
Contact: Anna Merlan