Gary Baseman is standing at the top of the stairs at the Corey Helford gallery in Culver City. Of 100 artworks lining the walls, only one is his — but this is very much Baseman’s night. “Look at Gary’s zebra beard,” giggles the pink-haired artist Natalia Fabia, clearly amused by Baseman’s black-and-white facial growth. Behind the beard, Baseman’s skin is glowing, and he looks proud, giddy almost, as he surveys the mix of TV celebrities, tatted pinup girls and bespectacled art collectors milling about. They’re here for the Charity by Numbers auction, for which Baseman persuaded more than 80 of his artist friends and associates — including Mark Ryden, Shepard Fairey, Camille Rose Garcia, Gary Panter and Tim Biskup — to customize vintage paint-by-numbers works (found and acquired by gallery owners Jan Corey Helford and Bruce Helford). The pieces are being auctioned off tonight and, for a week following, on eBay to benefit the Alliance for Children’s Rights.
Everyone here tonight is connected in some way or another, with Baseman playing the Tom to their MySpace, the common denominator. David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim, creators of the Ugly Dolls plush toys, have taken a simple approach with their piece, painting in two of their Ugly Doll characters, holding hands, waving hello and introducing themselves as they stand on a paint-by-numbers country cottage path. Mark Ryden stuck to his usual style, placing an enchanted tree baby in the strong arms of a paint-by-numbers mother figure. Ron English, known for his evil-looking Ronald McDonald characters, handled the challenge in a different way, creating an abstract series of spheres, partially obscuring the original pattern. And Natalia Fabia, who normally paints slutty women with big eyes (she’s painting me next week), threw a big glossy shark over her print.
“This show would never have happened without Gary,” Fabia tells me, and she’s right — getting so many name artists on board and making the whole thing happen in less than two months was kind of a miracle. I want to talk to Baseman about it. I try pushing my way through the throng, but I can’t get to him — he is surrounded by well-wishers. I catch a glimpse of zebra beard, but after half an hour of standing around, I realize that’s the closest I’m going to get tonight. I grab one last canapé and head into the night, quietly cursing Gary Baseman. Sometimes, you know, it’s possible to have too many friends.
The “Charity by Numbers” auction continues online at www.coreyhelfordgallery.com.