One thing we’ve learned from the Globe’s seven-day package “The Making of Mitt Romney” is that the man takes pride in his Ward Cleaver coif: “To achieve his clean-cut look, Romney has visited the same hair stylist for nearly 30 years.”
A square like Romney doesn’t exactly square with a designer like Shepard Fairey. Fairey’s street art campaigns take their cues from graffiti, Soviet propaganda, and John Carpenter’s They Live. Romney’s about as straight-arrow, button-down, and white-bread as they come.
Fairey uses wheatpaste to plaster MAKE ART, NOT WAR, posters; Romney supports the Bush surge. Fairey creates enormous dollar bills emblazoned with THIS IS YOUR GOD; Romney is the co-founder of the Bain Capital private-equity firm and is reportedly worth in excess of $500 million.
Yet in recent weeks Boston’s lampposts and utility boxes have been sporting some new stickers, putting a political spin on Fairey’s famous “Andre the Giant Has a Posse” campaign. In place of the outsize wrestler’s face? That of our erstwhile governor, shirt-starched and grinning wholesomely.
On first blush, the campaign would appear ironic. But a visit to mittromneyhasaposse.com shows that it’s actually spearheaded by Romney true-believers, including Jason Stevens of Brookline.
Stevens, 31, grew up in Rhode Island, and remembers the early ’90s, when Fairey — then a student at Rhode Island School of Design — was spangling Providence’s Thayer Street and environs with Andre propaganda.
“That’s always been an image that stuck in my mind,” says Stevens. “I wanted to get something like that going in support of Mitt Romney, something that would connect more with [younger voters].”
Stevens, an art fan, and his roommate, an artist, are trying to get people to think more freely about Romney. “People form opinions sometimes without really having enough information,” he says. “The street art is really meant to get people interested — interested enough that they’ll actually read about [him].”
Stevens does allow that it’s a strange juxtaposition, this “retro, old-school street-art thing” on behalf of “a Republican who’s on the right on a lot of issues.”
He also concedes that most artists do indeed lean left: “When people first see [the sticker campaign], they might say, ‘I hate Mitt Romney. I’m a Democrat.’ ” But, he says, the whole point of this street-level agit-prop campaign “is to get people to learn a little more” about their handsome candidate.
In Romney’s shining visage, Stevens sees something iconic. “Politics aside, just look at his presence,” he says. “Look at John F. Kennedy . . . look at Ronald Reagan, going to meet Gorbachev in the winter with no coat on. People in other countries see that presence in the president of the United States. I think that holds water.”