For the uninitiated, walking into the current show at The Hole gallery might be shocking and confusing, but give it a second and you’ll start smiling. Jaimie Warren’s brightly painted and Papier-mâché’d world of self-portraits and recreated celebrity internet memes is, on the surface, bizarre and silly (and maybe a little gross), but behind the both literal and figural masks are real ideas about fame, pop culture, art, and social mores. Take for example, her recreation of Fra Angelico’s High Altarpiece of San Domenico in Fiesole, a massive religious Renaissance painting Jaimie remade on video in a Kansas City gymnasium with what seems like hundreds of her friends dressed as her, her mother’s, and her grandmother’s favorite celebrities, singing along to Dionne Warwick’s “That’s What Friends Are For” off-key (which makes it that much better). You gotta see it to believe it. Because she approaches art from such an interesting and new perspective, her work may sometimes have the feel of outsider art, yet it’s anything but. Jaimie takes this silliness seriously, working unrelentingly with a smile on her face, and her art is the most fun I’ve had in a gallery all year. It closes May 4th, so hurry!
Christian Storm: Hey Jaimie, the show looks amazing! I was blown away the full Fra Angelico piece. I remember seeing it when it was only one frame. How long did that take you?
Jaimie Warren: Thanks, Christian! The first frame you saw in last year’s VICE Photo Issue, which you edited, and that’s where the whole thing started. I was so incredibly lucky to have VICE‘s support to help me make that piece. It was such an ambitious project, compared to all of my prior work, with over 200 characters in the end. We handmade almost all of the costumes and wigs, and we also shot it not only as photographs, but as a 5-channel music video where all of the characters come to life! I had so much help in making the work, including a lot of my collaborators from the variety show I co-direct, Whoop Dee Doo. Lee Heinemann, Lindsey Griffith, Sara Haug, and several others helped create all of the costumes and wigs, and Matt Roche created a 5-channel audio masterpiece. Where as when you guys got it, it was a static single frame, the full piece is shown as a music video at the Hole, which is a really crazy way to see it.
In total, it was five shoots and took a little over four months to complete. It was crazy to orchestrate all of these people, but it was made in Kansas City, which has a truly fantastic and supportive arts community, and this piece is pretty reflective of that.
What was the impetus to place it in the construct of classical piece of art, like a Renaissance painting? I know you tend to look towards pop culture for inspiration and influence more than to pure highbrow fine art, yet this sits squarely within an art historical context.
Well, in 2012 I started re-making all of these found Photoshopped images and re-creating them as self-portraits without using Photoshop. I would find them in these strange online contests that are sort of aimed at people who are bored at work. The outcome is often disturbing and/or incredible. I did about a dozen remakes of images where people altered images from art history, like placing Santa Claus in an ancient Egyptian painting or Yoda in a Bouguereau, or painting sexy bikinis on abstract women in a Picasso, so it stemmed from that. This remake of a 15th Century Fra Angelico painting is the first time I tried my own hand at it and created a parody composition on my own instead of using one I found. In the middle panel is myself as Missy Elliot in her giant infamous inflated garbage bag costume replacing the Christ figure dressed in all white. The outer panels have all of my favorite male celebs (including seventeen Michael Jacksons), and the 2nd and 4th panel celebs were chosen by my Mom and Grandma.