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Eyes Open

By Sara Baron-Goodman

Eyes Open - FeaturedImage_MRFTA

Fans may recognize Shepard Fairey’s distinctive socially minded, colour-blocked art from Barack Obama’s presidential campaign poster (with one word, “HOPE,” emblazoned at the bottom) or from his iconic clothing line OBEY’s logo. Fairey’s latest larger-than-life ode to justice, titled Paix et Justice, can be seen peering over the Montreal skyline from the side of an Allied building in the lower Plateau.

Commissioned as part of the 2022 MURAL Fest, Fairey’s mural calls to attention some of the most pressing issues of the day—the war in Ukraine, mass shootings in the United States, climate change and racial and gender inequality.

While these themes were at the forefront of Fairey’s mind when he was creating the piece, he affirms that his art is open to interpretation. His interpretation? The woman in the mural, laden with pro-justice imagery, makes direct eye contact with the viewer, imploring them to “navigate the world with their conscience fully engaged,” he says. Fairey sees her as an archetype of the activist, begging viewers not to turn their eyes away from issues that are right in front of us.

With its scales growing from a plant, the woman’s necklace is her pro-justice medallion, and the gun with the flower emerging from its muzzle is a simple pro-peace, anti-violence symbol. “Justice is a term that can apply to many things, but the areas I’m most concerned with are justice around equality and the environment,” he says. “In many regards, this is about seeing all parts of the globe as equal in deserving protection from climate change and environmental destruction…
I hope people who view the mural think about some things they may not have otherwise.”

You can find the mural adorning 3575 Saint-Laurent, and inspiring passersby with its complex and layered message.

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