An artist who wishes to remain anonymous started a mysterious movement early last week to raise awareness and funds to support frontline medical staff during the coronavirus pandemic. The movement began with a parody of Shepard Fairey’s Obey Andre the Giant poster featuring Governor Gina Raimondo’s face with one simple word: “OBEY.” The poster nods to the stern manner in which Raimondo has implemented important guidelines at her daily press conferences. The image was first revealed on the Instagram account @obeygina2020, which appeared seemingly out of nowhere mid April. The bio has but one sentence: “GINA RAIMONDO HAS A POSSE.” Yet another reference to Fairey’s Andre the Giant OBEY movement, which had the same slogan in the ’90s when the RISD graduate’s art appeared all over — from skateparks to billboards across the world. The original movement began right here in PVD, when the image first appeared covering Buddy Cianci’s face, and was perceived by many as a political protest.
A second image emerged puzzle piece style on the IG account to reveal yet another parody poster featuring the governor. This time she appears as all four members of the Ramones — accompanied by the popular lyrics to the 70’s rock band’s “Blitzkrieg Bop.” “Hey, Oh, Lets Go” the artist then adds “…nowhere” and “…stay home.” The band’s name is replaced with “Raimondos.” This clever and comedic rendition of the famous image is just a humorous way to deliver the social distancing guidelines we all are now hearing in our sleep.
The latest development on the account is the addition of a website (obeygina.com) where you can place an order for free stickers of the OBEY image, as well as t-shirts. When prints become available, this likely will be the place to purchase them.
“If there isn’t a face, people tend to listen more,” said the anonymous artist. “We are lucky enough to be in a city [where] street art/art is in abundance… If you pass by art or a billboard and you didn’t look or remember or talk about it, it didn’t do its job.” The source says they are already overwhelmed with orders, and they hope and expect this movement to take off. “The Obey campaign that started in Providence is iconic, that’s why a lot of people are interested in this one.” When asked if Gina Raimondo has commented on the posters the source said, “We’re trying our best to stay away from the ‘politicalness of this situation.” The source adds “apparently someone recently (heard) that Raimondo has seen it and says it’s great.” However they are not 100% sure.
“As with every movement it starts small, whether with a sticker or poster, a conversation, spreading the awareness of a cause.” The posters are expected to be released soon; the restaurants involved in the donations will also remain anonymous according to the source and are being coordinated through social media. “Everyone can take part, it belongs to everyone in this world we are now living in.”