Baracktoberfest: As the election approaches, Obama is popping up all over the place

Obama paper doll, courtesy of Dover Publications
Barack Obama is perhaps the most famous Chicagoan in the world at the moment, so it’s no surprise he is well remembered on the South Side. In fact, his name and likeness have been popping up all over the place. Here are some of the more unusual ways the South Side is commemorating–and profiting off of–its native son.

Obama at college
Barack Obama has strong ties to the University of Chicago. He taught there for twelve years, and his wife Michelle has worked there since 1996. This fall, the University’s Graham School of General Studies offers a course on him, “Barack Obama, Chicago, and African-American Politics,” that began on October 1 and ends the day after Election Day. For two and a half hours every Wednesday night, instructor Charles Branham examines Obama through his writings as well as his campaign, and places both within the context of race and politics in Chicago and America. Branham is a senior historian at the DuSable Museum of African American History, and the author of “Profiles of Great African-Americans.” (Sam Feldman)

Obama on paper
“Obama Paper Dolls,” illustrated by Tom Tierney and published by Dover Publications, elevates Barack Obama’s celebrity status to another level, eternalizing this presidential candidate’s handsome features and iconic smile in a fun novelty item. Including dolls of his entire family–Michelle, Malia, and Sasha–the Obamas are accompanied by a collection of outfits they’ve worn: the wool topcoat Barack wore when he announced his intention to run for President, the wedding dress Michelle wore, and more casual attire Malia and Sasha may wear on a warm sunny day. In explaining the deep significance of his paper doll work, the artist Tierney remarks that paper dolls “can tell us much about people, the clothes they wore, the way they lived and something of the times in which they lived.” So perhaps, in playing with “Obama Paper Dolls,” contemporary American politics may be remembered as a kitschy and disposable artifact. The dolls are available at Toys Et Cetera, at 1502 E. 55th Street. (Yennie Lee)

Obama at the Med
Hailed as a once-frequent hangout of Obama’s, the Medici on 57th Street proudly displays its Obama pride within the walls of the restaurant. Upon entering the Med, you’re greeted by a crowd of its employees in black T-shirts that say “OBAMA EATS HERE” in giant white letters on the back. The Med’s fervent support for Obama doesn’t stop there, however. In case the T-shirts weren’t proof enough of the Obama love, the Med has strategically placed engraved wooden cutting boards that read “Obama 2008” in every booth. When you use these cutting boards, you’re not only supporting Obama’s campaign–your vegetables are, too. Both the T-shirts ($18 each) and the cutting boards ($35 each) are for sale at the Med. (Tiffany Kwak)

Obama at the African American Fine Arts Show
The Obama trend perhaps most familiar has been the commoditization of his image in the form of bobble-head dolls and Urban Outfitters T-shirts. But with Obama showing up in the art world as the centerpiece of this year’s African American Fine Arts Festival in Bronzeville, there is an indication that Obama is, at the same time, already being raised to the profound status of an accomplished historic figure, even before his election as president. Dawoud Bey, a photographer and Columbia College professor who became famous for his portraits of teenagers in marginalized communities, stepped a little out of his usual aesthetic to take a quite stately-looking color portrait of Obama in his Hyde Park home, staring straight forward with an expression of slight contentment and seriousness. With Bey expressing his excitement for having the opportunity to take the portrait of “the next president of the United States of America” in his blog, it seems that he, along with the architects of the Festival, have boldly proclaimed Obama’s deep significance in the context of a higher cultural realm. (Laura Harmon)