INSIDE LOOK: Grey and the Making of the Renegade Obama Bust

Renegade | President Barack Obama Bust

Renegade | President Barack Obama Bust

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Village Voice Cover Oct. 2011

Village Voice Cover Oct. 2011

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CFM: WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO DO A BUST OF PRESIDENT OBAMA?

GREY: After Barack Obama became President, it started. I watched as an unprecedented attempt at dehumanization took place with no respect for the man or the office that he held. I had seen these types of attacks before... I knew what they felt like.

History revealed that neither Malcolm X nor MLK had aspirations toward fame and fortune. Neither actively sought personal recognition. But when faced with extreme adversity they were forced to make choices of character.  

It’s then that their greatness expressed itself. It was then that their true selves were revealed... and the hero emerged.  

Seeing President Obama under monstrous but familiar assault, I respected the power of the moment and decided to bear witness to it...

I was struck by the strength he displayed, maintaining his character in the face of hate. I wanted to communicate how I was affected by that strength and the intensity of focus... I felt like he was fighting my fight... carrying my weight. So, I wanted to give something in return. The best that I have is my art...

Artwork becomes a part of history. Because of my ability and the uniqueness of my perspective, I couldn’t wait for someone else to capture what was happening at this time. I wanted to do my part.  

CFM: WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO DO THE OBAMA BUST?

GREY: The deciding moment was directly after seeing the monkey references made about the First Lady... when I researched that, I saw imagery online portraying the Obamas as less than human or less than what they were...

CFM: HOW DID YOU SETTLE ON THIS DESIGN... HIS EXPRESSION... HIS POSTURE...?

GREY: I wanted to portray the inner qualities of the man. I asked myself how does his wife see him, because she married him... how does a wife want to see her husband. I tried to stay true to that.

I selected the posture of a boxer because he is currently engaged in the fight of his life. His pose is reminiscent of the fighting style of Muhammad Ali, Floyd Mayweather or someone like that.

CFM: SOME MIGHT SAY “RENEGADE” IS AN APPROPRIATE NAME FOR THE BUST SINCE PRESIDENT OBAMA HAS BROUGHT “UNWANTED” CHANGE TO AMERICA.  WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

GREY: I would say that change here more represents growth and progress. I don’t believe that people, in general, object to that, they just don’t want the pain often associated with it. Although I am not responsible for that moniker being placed on him, I chose it for the bust for what it could mean as a statement against the conventional thinking of the “old guard” who still believe that extreme separation between the classes still serves them.

I believe that the Obama presidency represents a paradigm shift, a “change” in perception... the effects of which will be felt beyond our lifetimes.

CFM: WHAT WAS YOUR PROCESS?

GREY: I worked in collaboration with an artist named Kilroy III. I provided him with gesture drawings and basic dimensions which he fleshed out in wax, giving me a basis... a foundation... from which to sculpt.  

After I finished sculpting it, Kilroy III molded it and then cast a bust in resin which I continued to refine. The process of molding and casting was repeated until we had our final piece.  

We worked on this bust, off and on, for about 3 months entirely out of the Brooklyn studio.

CFM:  WHAT IS IT MADE OF?

GREY: “Renegade” is cast in our “metallique” finish which includes a mix of metal, resin, and a few drops of pigment. We enjoy being able to get just the right combination of texture, weight and and lustre to the work. It is an art form in itself and although I am involved in the process, Kilroy lll is the hand behind that, and I am continually impressed by what he is able to achieve.

CFM:  WHAT DID YOU USE FOR REFERENCE?

GREY: I studied photos. I watched him on TV. I watched him move to get a feel for his attitude... and gain some understanding of his energy.

 

CFM:  WHAT KINDS OF REACTIONS HAVE YOU RECEIVED SO FAR ON THE BUST?

GREY: A few of my fellow industry professionals were shocked... they only knew of me as a writer or an illustrator.  

We were reviewed on several designer toy sites... one of which, an industry leading blog called "Plastic and Plush" said, regardless of one’s political persuasion, the sculpting work was amazing and realistic. I took that as a great compliment.

While I was sculpting the bust, I received a visit from a highly respected, decidedly Republican friend of mine. As he viewed the work we debated over the significance of the Obama presidency.

He is very open-minded but very skeptical in regards to the President and his policies. A few days later Obama delivered a powerful speech after the passing of health-care reform legislation. My friend called to tell me that he was deeply affected by it. He recounted a moment when Barack Obama faced the camera and said “

This is what change looks like...” with the expression that he had seen on the sculpture.

He told me that it was an emotional moment of realization for him... that he “got it”. From that moment on, that quote has been on all literature associated with the work. I “got it” also.

[UPDATE: During the week of October 12-18, 2011, the Renegade Obama bust was featured on the cover of The Village Voice newspaper.]

CFM: SHOULD WE EXPECT A SERIES OF RELATED BUSTS?

GREY: I am toying with producing a couple of variations of the Renegade bust. I am also going to do a bust of First Lady Michelle Obama... and possibly a sculpt of the two of them together. I feel inspired to do these specifically as an artistic expression. 

CFM:  WHERE WERE YOU TRAINED AS A SCULPTOR?

GREY: I have had no specific training as a sculptor. As an artist I am self-taught.

I draw no distinctions in the creative process or its expression. Whether you sculpt, draw or write, at the core, it’s the same thing. It’s just a question of which tools you use to express something. I acquired the skills because I needed them.

CFM: WHERE CAN WE SEE YOUR WORK?

GREY: Our busts are currently on display at the Medialia Rack and Hamper Gallery in midtown Manhattan. We are negotiating with several other museums and galleries in Brooklyn, Harlem and D.C. as well.

We are also planning for a series of  centered on the Renegade Obama bust that will feature our work as well as many emerging and prominent artists in comics and designer toys.

As it relates to comic books, my last published work was for DC Comics in their Batman 80 Page Giant  and an alternate cover for The Warriors

My own art is released through our website, www.carbon-fibre.me. As a company, our focus is on establishing a strong web presence to communicate directly to our readership. I feel that to be very important for the art form moving forward.

CFM:  WHAT’S NEXT ON THE HORIZON FOR YOU AND CARBON-FIBRE MEDIA?

GREY: My current focus is on completing the first “Val-Mar, Prince of the Damned” graphic novel and a series of busts and sculpts of related characters. I’ve completed busts from that property as well as from the upcoming graphic novel already in development, “The Legend of Apollo”.

The E-Cell is a story-telling format that we created that I am particularly excited about. It allows me to tell a story without the limitations of standard pages, and take advantage of my individual strengths as a sequential artist.

The company is in development on several other entertainment properties that are entirely original and strikingly unique from what is currently out there. I am very proud of this... It is an exciting time for us.

CFM: IF YOU COULD SPEAK TO THE OBAMAS, WHAT WOULD YOU WANT THEM TO KNOW?

GREY: That no one can know the magnitude of this moment, the true significance of the role they play.

That even their enemies are forever changed, and time will reveal the effects on them and their families.

I would like them to know that they have a spiritual support even beyond anyone's understanding... that they are appreciated on that level.

For us that understand... that this is beyond a political thing, it is a bold step toward restored humanity...

I can almost hear my ancestors cheering.