To be honest, my expectations of a broad-ranging interview with the icon-maker, Shepard Fairey, were not high. I was moderating a panel on manhood before a live Hollywood audience, including plenty of press. I had talked his people out of making a public announcement that would preclude questions related to his ongoing court case. I assured them that it was better to let me play the heavy. If a question was asked, I would lay a body block on the situation, making clear that I wouldn't allow Fairey to answer.
Still, I was troubled. Several photographer friends of mine boycotted the event and sent me nasty emails for even letting Fairey come. "You are supposed to be talking about what it means to be a 'good' man," they said. "What does a guy who lies and steals have to say on that topic?"
My misgivings are what made the actual interview that much more remarkable. Fairey didn't duck the question. To the contrary, he answered it with a kind of deep honesty and courage that made me see how authentic of an artist, and a man, he really is. He spoke not just about his profound mistake, but went on to talk openly about his relationship with his wife -- both positive and negative -- as she sat in the front row. And he explained his own philosophical quest to understand how his "silly" André the Giant sticker had become an icon full of meaning when it started out as a joke.
Here, is perhaps, the most revealing portrait of the man on record:
Follow Tom Matlack on Twitter: www.twitter.com/tmatlack