Figure 1a. Three posters from a series Sahre designed and printed for productions at Fells Point Corner Theatre in Baltimore. These posters were printed in editions of 100 and were designed pro bono, with the theater paying for materials.
In calling attention to the ethical decisions of others, Sahre
begs that the same questions be asked of him. If you’re willing to
speak out on such topics, you’d better be free of sin or freely admit
your own sins. The only worse thing than a scold is a hypocritical
scold. What kind of guy was this Sahre? One year later, I had the
opportunity to find out.
NOT NEW YORK
One of four children, Sahre was born in 1964 and grew up in Johnson
City, a small town in upstate New York, somewhere between
Syracuse and the Pennsylvania line. The town’s sensibility was
more Midwestern than New York City—life was quiet, simple and
anonymous, Sahre says. “New York City seemed very far away.”
Figure 1b. Sahre created this illustration for the New York Times’ op-ed page. Two computer hard drives full of weapon secrets disappeared from the Los Alamose nuclear labs. The energy department said there was "no proof" that the drives had fallen into the wrong hands and that they had been merely “misplaced.” CO-DESIGNER: Brian Rear
Sahre chose Kent State University near Akron, Ohio for college.
He was attracted to the school’s place in American progressive
thinking and leftist political history. He liked it enough to
continue there for grad school. An exciting time in his life, he discovered
design was not a “job” but more like “religion.”
After grad school, Sahre and his first wife moved to Baltimore.
She worked as a fashion designer for Merry-Go-Round, an ’80s
retailer, and he began a series of mind-numbing jobs that made
the exhilaration of grad school a mere hallucination. Reality, as it
turned out, was disappointing.
Still, Sahre bought in deeply to the American Dream. He settled
down, got married, bought a house, assumed a mortgage, and
took on a series of dull jobs to pay for it. To escape the displeasure
he found with his paying work, he set up a low-tech silkscreen
print shop in his basement and began doing jobs for little or for
free. His main client, Fells Point Corner Theatre, gave him free
reign. Sahre only charged them for expenses, usually less than $150 including paper and ink. The theater “sniped” the posters across
Baltimore. They got noticed. They got stolen. They brought Sahre
a small degree of notoriety and a great deal of pleasure.
And still, Sahre continued to work for others, paying the bills,
plodding along, weighing his options. He took a job with GKV
Advertising as director of an in-house design group. Working on
a brochure for a company that serviced attack helicopters, Sahre
realized he hated his job. It was making him hate his life.
One day, without forethought, he called a staff meeting. He
recalls the moment: “I said to [the designers], ‘Why are you here?
Why are you wasting your best years here? What are you doing?
Does any of this have any meaning to you? Because it means nothing
to me.’” The pep talk worked: A few months later, the agency
closed the design group, releasing them to seek their Zen. “It was a
mercy killing,” Sahre says, looking back. “We were euthanized.”