Saturday, August 4, 2012

Ain't America Beautiful?

Artist Danny Evans photoshops the hell out of famous celebrities, turning them into people just like us.  It's an amazing and beautiful metamorphosis, each photo poignant in a way short stories in little magazines are poignant.  It's as if Bobbie Ann Mason and Andy Warhol had a baby.  There's a meditation in here somewhere about beauty/ugliness, but what the real kick is:  each celeb's "look," even when brought back down to earth, has a strange and hypnotic power because someone took an ugly stick to them.  Call it the Charlize Theron Monster Factor.  Evans isn't just making  superstars look like "regular people" here -- he's foregrounding class, and showing how we somehow "see" people in whole new ways when the context shifts and the joke melts away.  Its a gallery of grotesques he's made, but the grotesquery is ours, and ain't America beautiful?  

These stars now have majestic lower-middle-class others enjoying themselves at gun-and-knife shows, clocking in at their dead-end jobs, standing in line at Chick-Fil-A on Hate-the-Faggots Day.  But also look at their faces:  they're the same people before, during and after.  The transformation is fleeting; they morph in and out like strobe-lights. 

My fave is Gwyneth Paltrow.  I think she would be my friend.

I'm also thinking about Antonio Adams, my favorite artist, and his new show coming up at Thunder-Sky, Inc.  Antonio is doing the same cultural and aesthetic work Evans is doing, only instead of accessing software, he uses magic marker and a more authentic and spiritualized philosophy.  In "Unrealized and Unforeseen:  New Works," opening August 24, 2012 at Thunder-Sky, Antonio is showing a portfolio of extremely beautiful and eerily provocative paintings, photos and drawings about flipping the world of celebrity on its fucked-up head, and creating a sort of William-Blake-like paradise where all the stars slip through blackholes, and all the "regular people" he knows (folks Antonio works with at Frisch's Restaurant, family and other friends) go through customs and become Super Stars. 

Evans' photos are creepy, hilarious and stone-cold great, but there's also a sort of celebrity-crush still going on.  The anonymity of the people they become is just another way to glamorize what's been taken away.  Antonio does Evans one better in my book:  he's on the other side of celebrity, telling all of us there's no need for it.