Messy or organized, packed with useless crap or can't-live-without-'em necessities, the personal junk drawer is undeniably a window to the soul. For example, a quick survey of (one of!) mine includes old club wristbands, bobby pins and hair ties, random business cards, leaky lip glosses, parking stubs, random Advil gel caps, crayons, and baby wipes. This might be all you need to know about me, to uh, know me.
Artist Jason Mecier has taken the concept of the junk drawer and turned it into a unique and fascinating form of portraiture. His work, which utilizes found items and personal belongings (often sent to him by the subjects themselves) to create mosaic-like three-dimentional collages is truly a visual feast, each creation offering new discoveries and subtextual delights upon lengthy scrutiny or repeat views. Fans of now closed World of Wonder Gallery in Hollywood are probably familiar with his work (his Warhol and RuPaul were favorites), but Mecier who lives in San Francisco, has never had his own solo exhibit in LA until now.
With the very green Gaga portrait above as a centerpiece, Mecier's St. Patty's Day opening tonight at Ghetto Gloss, is sure to be as festive and lively as any Irish Pub (I hear there'll be green libations too). Expect brand new works (Tori Spelling and the likes of Michael Jackson and Heather Ledger done in pills) and some of the fabulous subjects to be in attendance.
After the jump, enjoy more of Mecier's work, plus pics from his studio home (he's a collector of "stuff" for sure, but he's surprisingly neat and organized) and a lil Q&A about his creations.
How did you first come up with the idea to do celebrity "3D mosaics"?
I started about 15 years ago doing beans and noodle portraits of my favorite celebrities. then moved to yarn, candy, pills and finally about five years ago, EVERYTHING was up for consideration as art supplies.
Are all your creations made from the subjects own belongings?
I started pretending all the junk I was using belonged to the subject. Like I would just say to myself "these are Donald Trump's shoes," "this was Prince's purple bong." Then I thought, why not just ask the celebrities for their real stuff! ?Kathy Griffin's portrait includes Velveeta wrappers and Clay Aiken CDs.
How do you get the materials from them/contact them?
Any way I can! I started just blindly sending out letters to agencies and people's personal websites like (Morgan Fairchild,Stepfanie Kramer, Joan Van Ark,Tura Satana, Susan Tyrrell). Sometimes it's a friend of a friend, like was the case with Parker Posey, Ricki Lake, and Margaret Cho.RuPaul: Beauty products galore. Note the Nair!
Do you ask them to send stuff from their actual junk drawers or all personal items that represent them?
I usally say something like "anything you'd like to donate to your portrait, things like broken or unwanted jewelry, shoes, sunglasses, toiletries, kitchen utensils, your merchandise, office supplies, trash etc. " Phyllis Diller was the first. I saw she was a painter and there was an address online so I just asked her and about 2 weeks later she sent me a box with old jewelry, eyeglasses, anti-itch creams and antique stopwatches. She still sends me a box every few months, I think I have about 17 boxes of her stuff now.
What is your creating process? Other materials? Paint?
I don't use any paint. Only objects and glue on a wood panel. I start by looking through hundreds of pictures and collage together my choice for the best face/hair/oufit/background. Many times my favorite picture of someone isn't what will make the best portrait. Another big aspect is sorting through junk and picking out all the things thay would fit with each story. After carefully inspecting what the celebrity sent me, I'll decide on a color story and theme and add things from my own collections to fill it out. Then it's a very labor intensive process of figuring out where everything goes. It's like creating my own 3-D layered puzzle. That's the hard part, but also where the magic happens.Mecier in his studio (he's also a Charlies Angels collector).
Is there a meaning behind the work or is it pure visual eye candy?
I don't know what the statement is. I know you can read a lot into it about celebrity culture, hero worship, waste, egos, folk art and pop art, but I'll leave that for the viewer to decide. I'm a fan so its definitely an homage. I try to capture the essence of the perceived image.
What pieces are you most excited about in this new show?
The Lady Gaga and Tori Spelling ones. The pill ones of Michael Jackson, Courtney Love, Kelly Osbourne, and Heath Ledger because they are last ones completed and they are current celebrities.Mecier's very well organized "junk."
What are some of the weirdest/most unexpected things celebs have sent you? Highlights include Heidi Fleiss' moldy slippers, Phyllis Diller's prescription anti-itch creams, Parker Posey's night guard, Barbi Bentons retainer from high school, Jane Wiedlin's leaking black Clarol hair dye applicator, Kathy Najimy's Dexatrim, Ricki Lakes compact travel tampon, Florence Hendersons "key to the city" and silver pumps. I also have Heather Matarazzo's cigarette butt (Dawn Wiener from Welcome to the Dollhouse), two of Tori Spellings vibrators, a letter Paris Hilton sent me from prison, and a bag of Pam Anderson's dirty laundry.
"Celebrity Junk Drawer -The Art of Jason Mecier" at Ghetto Gloss, 6109 Melrose Ave. LA CA 90038; Wed., March 17, 2010 (8pm-Midnight) running for one week only.