COLLECTING: Obamabelia


With the Inauguration only days away (YAY!!!) I want to remind you about the Obama handbags by Flashbags. These make great Obama inaugural gifts,Obama inaugural commemoratives, and of course, are a piece of inaugural history. They are bound to become valuable and valued Obama collectibles.

Flashbags, the wonderful woman-owned, independently operated micro business in Burlington Vermont has been making Obama bags since early in the campaign days.

These beautiful bags are made of laminated paper, with images inside as well as outside,  hand stitched and sewn with swoops and swirls that complement the composition of each image.  Each bag features  a cellphone pocket, and handles made of beverage tubing. The main edges are bound with clear plastic to keep your bag durable. Very sturdy and comfortable to carry.

Flashbags has been making handbags and accessories for over three years, I've sold them since we both went into business, and I stand behind their amazing product.


Obama Inaugral Flashbag





It seems clear that President-Elect Barack Obama has inspired more and better art than any previous America political candidate or victor, but political imagery and ephemera is not a new category for  collectors. I started collecting campaign buttons in the early sixties - most of which I regret that I no longer have. But fliers, posters, celluloid buttons and other propaganda is a fertile ground for art collectors and cultural/political historians.

Campaign buttons have long been a popular way to market candidates. George Washington and many of his supporters wore brass clothing buttons reading "G.W. - Long Live The President" at his inauguration in 1789.

1789-2 George Washington (GW enclosed by inscription Long Live The President) (brass inaugural button)
George Washington Inaugural Button, 1879. Courtesy of

In a  marketing strategy that continues to this day, William Harrison sold himself as a man the common people, with his "log cabin" image. The truth that he came from a wealthy, prominent family was no more relevant than the fact that "cowboy" George Bush did.

1840 William Henry Harrision (black sulphide). Scarce
William Harry Harrison, 1840. Sulphide badge. Courtesy of

Not all presidential imagery is used to sell the canditate running for office. Sometimes the images are used to sell unrelated products. My sister, Holly Cowan Shulman, one of the world's leading experts on Dolley Madison relies on, and loves, the pop cultural images of the "first" first lady, hostess of Washington. Madison's name and image was used widely, after her death, to market products from ice cream to tobacco to cake.

Dolley madison icecream
Dolly Madison Ice Cream. Note that the name is spelled wrong. Courtesy of The Dolley Madison Project.

By the time of the Abraham Lincoln campaing, tintype and ferrotype processes allowed for mass manufacture of images and campaign promotional badges. 

Lincoln star button

Abraham Lincoln star button. Courtesy of

Lincoln Ambrotype Reverse  

Lincoln ambrotype badge/pendant. As much an ad for the manufacturer as for the candidate. Courtesy of

Teddy Rooseveltpillbox 

Teddy Roosevelt button. Courtesy of

Adlai stenenson pin Pictorial Productions tuckshoe NY

Adlai Stevenson celluloid button.

Stevenson shoe pin blog  

Heavy on symbolism - the Adlai Stevenson hole in the shoe pin. A wonderful customer gave this to me.


Adlai Stevenson, hole in his shoe. 1952, photo by William M. Gallagher. This photo, shot at arm's lenght so Stevenson wouldn't realize what was happening, won the Pulizer prize in 1953. The Flint Journal

Any photojournalist or political historian remembers the Stevenson photo and the powerful symbolism of a president who encourages thrift. Which brings us to Barack Obama.

Obama hole in shoe photo by Callie shell 

Photo by Callie Shell/Aurora for Time. Providence RI, 3/1/2008 "Senator Obama was doing press interviews by telephone in a holding room between events. Sometime later as he was getting ready to begin his event, he asked me if I was photographing his shoes. When I said yes, he told me that he had already had them resoled once since he entered the race a year earlier. "

The Obama buttons are famous, as are the Shepard Fairey Obama Hope posters. Right now, all you politcal ephemera collectors can jump on the bandwagon and get this new sticker by Shepard Fairey from But hurry up. The limited edition (5,000)  Shepard Fairey Yes We Did poster sold out in record time yesterday and I blinked and missed it. Really. I was with a customer and when I came back online they were gone. They will be available on the secondary market, but prices will rise dramatically.


Shepard Fairey, Yes We Did sticker available from MoveOn.Org.

You can get one sticker for free, 5 for $3 or 50 for $20.  I've seen these available for sale on an online auction for $5 each, and they haven't even been released from the artist/publisher yet. I find that unscrupulous, since they are still available for free from the source. So get yours while they are still available from MoveOn.Org.  And give them a generous contribution while you're at it.

update Nov 11: the signed We Did It poster sold out. At last look, was still offering unsigned posters for a donation of $15.


Day two of a new era.

So, now that the election is done and we won! my Obama Or Else postcards are no longer propaganda but now are collectibles. Funny how the market works that way. I gave away close to five thousand postcards for the cause and was gleeful to do it. Now they cost a buck each.

Obama or else postcard
Obama Or Else Postcard. Pine Street Art Works, Liza Cowan design.

You know they are so worth it. Just stick few dollars into an envelope and send it to me. I'll send your cards.

$10/set of 10 cards
+ 5.00 postage


Obama inaugural bag b:w


Be the first on your block to carry the Flashbag Obama Inaugural handmade handbag. Obamabelia at it's finest!

Flashbags, the wonderful woman-owned, independently operated micro business in Winooski Vermont has just come out with their Obama Inaugural Handbag.

These beautiful bags are made of laminated paper, with images inside as well as outside,  hand stitched and sewn with swoops and swirls that complement the composition of each image.  Each bag features  a cellphone pocket, and handles made of beverage tubing. The main edges are bound with clear plastic to keep your bag durable. Very sturdy and comfortable to carry.

Flashbags has been making handbags and accessories for over three years, I've sold them since we both went into business, and I stand behind their amazing product.



"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer." Barack Obama, November 4, 2008

Obama art, barack obama, president obaba, art about obama, art about presidential inauguration, inaugural art, TMNK, urban art about obama,
TMNK - The Me Nobody Knows. Sacred Promise. Mixed Media with oxidized rust application on canvas. Copyright 2008 TMNK. Used by permission of the Artist.

"All of us are equal. That’s the promise that was made to all of us as Americans by the founding fathers, And in doing so an even greater promise was made. That promise was that if YOU were willing to do your best to be your best, you could accomplish anything, even becoming President of The United States. Well if (when) Barack Obama takes the “Oath of Office” America would have finally kept her promise, and hundreds of years of tomorrows have become today.
And by electing Barack Obama, “we the people” are making a new promise, a very sacred promise to future generations. Unity over division. Love over hate, Peace over War. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream, FOR ALL OF US. Well close your eyes go to sleep, and get up and vote on Tuesday. I believe tomorrow is today, and today the dream comes true. I promise." -


It's a cold rainy day here in Burlington, VT, but I finally got my Obama T shirt and I had to put it in my shop window.

Obama window, art about obama, vote nov 4th t shirt, obama art with tibean buddhist symbol,
Obama t shirt and Obama Flashbag in window of Pine Street Art Works.

Obama shirt detail

Obama shirt, detail

Flashbag Obama limited edition 

Limited edition Obama bag by Flashbags. Each bag is numbered. A substantial portion of each sale goes to the Obama Campaign. Order online directly from Flashbags or if you are in town, come by and buy one at Pine Street Art Works.

Two weeks to go until Nov. 4th, and I don't know about you, but I'm filled with a mixture of hope and anxiety. If Obama wins, well, the world will be a much better place. If he loses, there will be hell to pay. Obama says "do you want four more years of the same?" But I say a McCain/Palin presidency would be exponentially worse than we suffered with Bush.

So keep on making those calls, talk to your neighbors, do everything humanly possible in the next two weeks to make sure Obama wins.

Here in Burlington people are enthusiastic about Obama. Almost everyone who comes into Pine Street Art Works is delighted to take some of my Obama Or Else postcards, or some buy an Obama bag by  Flashbags. A few people have been politely not interested. No fights, no arguments. Just lots of, "what are you doing to help? Any suggestions of what I can do to help? and "here's what I've been doing to help."

But a few stores where I've asked if I could leave some Obama cards have said, "well, we can't afford to alienate our clients or customers who support McCain." Maybe it just shows that I'm not that great at business, but my response is, "Bite Me!" I'd rather lose the business than not show my support for Obama and sane government.

Obama postcard, obama or else, presidential election art, presidential election ephemera, presidential election propaganda, obama in art
Obama Or Else postcard. Still available, still free. Send SASE to 404 Pine Street.

Oh, and this is the painting that is also in the window. It's my variation on a Tibetan Buddhist White Tara. I painted it about 4 or 5 years ago, and it's in the window because right now I am showing photos from Tibet taken just before the Chinese takeover. The photographs are by Heinrich Harrer, who wrote Seven Years In Tibet.

Tibetan buddhist white tara, tibetan buddhist symbol, painting of white tara, interpretation of tibetan buddhist tara 

White Tara. Acrylic on Canvas, 64" x 51". Copyright Liza Cowan 2003

Youth for Obama!

My youngest customer yet, that is, the youngest to ever spend her hard earned and hard saved money, came in on Saturday to buy an Obama bag by Flashbags.

SPY with obama bag

SPY (her initials, not her job description), who is twelve years old and in the seventh grade, saw the bags here at Pine Street Art Works during  Art Hop and decided that it was well worth spending her own money on. She plans to use the bag to carry her school books. Burlington, VT  is passionate for Obama, and our infectious hope for the future has inspired our young people.

Hurray for the progressive voters of tomorrow, who know they can make a difference today. $20 of her purchase price has been contributed to the Obama Campaign.


Remember to check out the website

I have fallen in love with this artist: TMNK- the me nobody knows

TMNK website

OBama by TMNK

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?
TMNK™ - The Me Nobody Knows -used by permission of the artist. Contact TMNK here before reprinting.
mixed media on canvas 24" x 36 "

see TMNK's Flickr site

Text from TMNK's flickr site:

In Stanley Kramer's 1967 movie "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?", a whirlwind romance by an interracial couple forced their families to confront their attitudes about race. The male love interest, and lead was a young NEGRO played by Sydney Portier. Matters were only further complicated by the fact that this was no stereotypical NEGRO. Smart, accomplished, ARTICULATE, polite, and sophisticated.
Well here we are some 40+ years later, and guess who may be coming to dinner?
Yup, another smart, accomplished, ARTICULATE, polite, and sophisticated Negro, accept today they're called Black.
It seems America is in the midst of filming an updated version of that cinematic classic starring Barack Obama. This time around , however, the love interest is not a "white woman", it's THE WHITE HOUSE! And just like the parents in 1967, America is being forced to confront it's racial attitudes (the one's it supposedly doesn't have).
You think Tilly had a fit when Sydney Portier's character wanted to marry the sweet little white girl she had helped raise. Well Tilly honey, will likely piss in her panties when she sees who's at the front door of the white house.
Guess who's coming to dinner now Tilly? "Hi, my name is Barack Obama."


Obama shephard fairey orginal sold at charity auction - art for life $108,000
Shephard Fairey, Obama Hope 2008

Continuing my mini series on Obama Art, here is the now famous picture by Shepard Fairey, Obey Giant, Obama Hope 2008. Fairey is a Los Angeles based graphic artist whose work, politics, commitment, and marketing strategies I admire greatly.

This mixed media stencil collage sold for $108,000 at the Art For Life auction/Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, which provides "disadvantaged urban youth with significant exposure and access to the arts, as well as providing exhibition opportunities to under-represented artists and artists of color"

Fairey's work consciously evokes Aleksandr Rodchenko and other Russian avant garde  poster designers like Dziga Vertov, whose work I also adore. In fact, his work references most of the cannon of poster art. ( -not Fairey's site - has a list of sources  - follow this link.) As a dedicated FAKE! myself, I appreciate this urge, and value how Fairey has taken on the cannon, borrowed heavily, yet made for himself a very distinctive look. I do wish he would rigorously credit the artists he borrows. Nothing wrong with FAKE! but giving credit is not only ethical, it also helps people learn about great art.

His work for the Obama campaign and Rock The vote is invaluable, and I honor him for that.

F1f3c8f710e8e89b723373435bf05d1c                       Images
Shepard Fairey, Say Yes               Aleksndr Rodchenko

And it just so happens that this event takes place tonight. Another Shepard Fairey design.


Shephard Fairey - Party For Change

Website to visit for more Obama Art - The Obama Art Report. Check it out.

thanks to The Obama Art Report, again, I found this article from the LA Times on Graffiti Art/Street Art and the Obama Campaign


I love posters. You already knew that. Although I'm a major fan of vintage ones, there's some awfully good work being done now. And sure enough, in time they will become vintage too.

Obama_date farmers

This Obama poster was done by Armando Lerma and Carlos Ramirez, known collectively as The Date Farmers. I don't own this poster yet, but I want one.

One small thing you can do every day: OBAMA POSTCARD

Blog obama or else

Obama Or Else postcard. Design Liza Cowan 2008 Creative Commons

Remember to send me an SASE to get these post cards. $.59 postage gets you ten cards. Or email me if you or your organization wants more. Liza(at)

The cards are great for starting conversations about the election. Mail them, hand them out, leave them around your neighborhood. Organize. Make Change Happen. (Don't you just hate McShame for stealing the word change? Lying liars. Can't even think of their own buzzwords.)

Pine Street Art Works, 404 Pine Street, Burlington, VT 05401

Remember - you can make your own cards too, even if just a few on your home computer or at your local copy shop. Be creative and say what you believe. Or go ahead, use mine (tho I'd like a teensy credit somewhere) Just get the word out and Organize!

Update Nov 6th - Now that the election is done and won, these cards have become collectibles rather than propaganda. I gave away close to five thousand of them gleefully. Now they cost $1.00 e

$1.00 per card

+ $0.75 postage for up to ten cards.

send check or cash to pine street art works. 404 Pine Street. Burlington VT 05401