Portrait of the Absurdist
She may not be an extreme "fan", per se, but if you were to describe "14" (yes, 14) as extremely fascinated by celebrities, you'd be right.
For the past year, the San Francisco-based artist has made celebrities the focus of her work. And far from emulating celeb-centric art that borders on religious iconography, have no fear -- 14's work has little in common with the fawning velvet paintings of yesteryear. 14 uses the tools at her disposal -- pen, paint, computer and one magnificent time-suck of a blog -- to skewer, rather than glorify, celebrity.
Her art borrows elements from tabloids, editorial cartoons, advertising and even textbook illustrations to illuminate a world of distorted values, inflated egos and undeniable appeal.
Recently, I interviewed 14 via e-mail.
First off, can you explain the moniker 14?
Very simply, 14 is my favorite number. As an added bonus, it adds up to 5... which is my second favorite number. I couldn't go wrong naming myself 14.
How long have you been focusing on celebrities and what was your initial inspiration for moving into this space?
My focus has been on celebrity gossip for a little over a year. I started drawing sketches from photos and "news" found in the pages of the tabloids just to amuse myself and one day decided to share them with the world. I figured I might be able to get some freelance work opportunities from my blog and WOW, be careful what you wish for. I am now flooded with work!
What was the first piece?
The very first piece I ever did was Britney Spears smoking a cigarette and crying over Kevin Federline.
What came first? The art ideas or the blog idea?
The art ideas came first. I was keeping all my celebrity gossip sketches and other bits of pop culture nonsense in a handmade book I called "Gallery of the Absurd." The original "Gallery of the Absurd" book was started six years ago and when blogs became easy and convenient, I decided to move my work from book form and onto the blogosphere. Interestingly, my work will move back into book form as I'm in negotiations with a publisher to create an illustrated book based on my blog. It's a very interesting cycle.
Who is your favorite subject?
To me, gossip turns celebrities into characters from a circus side show, and right now, my favorite sideshow characters/freaks are Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Tom Cruise, and Brangelina. I am also obsessed with a recent set of paparazzi photos capturing George Clooney wolfing down a hot dog. I find the image very compelling for some reason and am attempting to turn it into an iconic image of George by painting it onto a giant canvas. It will be my first large oil painting of celebrity gossip, and I hope to create a series for a future gallery show. Who would buy a giant oil painting of George Clooney eating a hot dog? That's what I want to find out.
Where do you get your inspiration, for instance, for pieces like "TomRatS?"
I find inspiration among the pages of tabloids, as well as some of my favorite gossip blogs. When I read celebrity gossip, I feel like I'm reading a comic book. I choose to see the humor in The Cult of Celebrity instead of becoming sickened by it... Otherwise I would go crazy. Tom Rats was done as part of a "Celebrity Animals" feature I illustrated for an upcoming issue of Animal Magazine.
Any celeb reaction to your pieces?
Not much that I know of. Dave Navarro posted my painting of him to his blog and was really nice about it. I had called him "Carmen Electra's Marionette" and accused him of having hair like Wonder Woman, but he took it all in stride and had a sense of humor about it. I really doubt most the celebrities I paint even give my work a second notice as there are far more scandalous items printed about them in the tabloids.
Selling any? Are they all one of a kind?
I have sold several paintings, but am now saving up all my work for my first solo art show at the DVA
Gallery in Chicago this August. Soon, I'll be selling limited-edition prints of my work off my blog.
Is this your day job? If not, what is?
I work full time as an illustrator and occasionally do a little freelance curating for gallery shows.
How long does each piece take?
Some are just quick sketches and I can do about two in a day. Others are paintings and can take up to two to four weeks depending on the size and medium.
Where can we see your work in person?
Right now the only gallery show I have scheduled is the DVA Gallery in Chicago, but I hope to find other galleries to show my work next year.
In the meantime, keep up with 14's latest work at galleryoftheabsurd.com.
| June 27, 2006; 10:45 AM ET
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