On election night, Aaron Foster stayed inside for the evening.
“I was at home by myself watching the news,” said Foster of that historic day in November 2008. The artist – who still hesitates to label himself as such – later thought, “What was I doing at home?”
The 36-year-old San Francisco Bay area native, who said he was “totally obsessed with the elections,” decided come Jan. 20, he wanted to celebrate the occasion with others. He held an inauguration party at his Melrose gallery through political action group, MoveOn.org. (Click on the jump for more, including photos)
Foster said he began his license plate art seven years ago “to impress a girl, who was an artist,” he said. At the time, he owned a wholesale furnishings company in Atlanta, Georgia, he said, and he collected old pull-down school maps. His first work was a map of the United States using plates from each state, which ultimately became his “signature piece,” he said. Though he didn’t win over the girl, she did encourage him to continue his art. His company provided a convenient outlet to sell his work, and “it just took off.” He ended up selling over 100 pieces his first year he was in business as an artist and since then, he said he has made about 3,000 pieces in 100 different designs.
When Foster first began making his license plate art, it was post-9/11, and “it was good timing,” he said; his art was “not so much ‘America’ or ‘American’ as it is Americana.” As he’s told by his customers, it’s “patriotic, but it’s not in-your-face (flag-waving) patriotic.”
“Maybe I’m a sap, but I’m really inspired” by President Barack Obama to do his own part to help fix the country, whether it’s donating time or money, said Foster, who used to host HGTV’s budget-friendly, home redesign show “Freestyle”. “I always cringe when people [call the U.S.] ‘the greatest country on the face of the earth,’ but the potential is there and I feel like it’s back.”
Foster said he thinks 2009 will be a tough year for Americans, but with Obama as president, the U.S. is “headed in the right direction.”
“I’m very fortunate [to be] making a living as an artist,” he said. “I don’t know that there’s many countries in the world where a kid can make a really nice living making art out of trash.”
Visit Foster’s website at aaronfoster.com. His gallery is located at 7669 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles; open Wednesdays through Sundays from 12 to 8 p.m. until February.