Who didn’t doodle a Snoopy, a heartthrob or – in the case of your’s truly – send Tony Hart their lovingly created charcoal portrait of Johnny Rotten when they were growing up (which sadly didn’t make The Gallery)? Fan art is as old as days, but when proper artists do it, it becomes quite a different thing. We’ve discovered two artists in the space of a week who are breathing new life into the genre. The first, New York artist Morgan Blair once told an interviewer that one of her favourite artists was, “whoever made the paintings above the Drake’s TV and couch in Seinfeld season 4 episode 22 The Handicap Spot.” Her fandom already revealing itself in her ability to name episodes, is even greater than you might think – feast your eyes on her oil painting series of TV’s most famous show about nothing.
The series is not Morgan’s most recent work – she has since (among other things) founded Puzzle Time, which is dedicated to artist-made jigsaw puzzles – but it remains in our book amazingly compelling. She told one website that, “my process involves watching episodes of Seinfeld on my computer with my fingers poised to take screenshots at key moments, specifically when characters are covering their faces, at close-ups on plot device objects (a hand holding a business card, an eclair in the trash, etc) or any kind of situation that looks like a painting to me. Then I just go into each one trying to stay free, without really rendering them into blatant fan-art type images. Ultimately, I want the screenshots to serve as a compositional jumping off points for more abstract studies, but sometimes they turn into more devoted representations of the characters.”
In a similar vein our second artist, from her base in Louisville, Kentucky, is managing two unlikely tasks for the price of one – making fan-art feel hip and the medium of embroidery feel cutting edge. Elsa Hansen Oldham draws on a mix of pop culture, history and politics for her subjects which vary from Barrack Obama and Kanye to Shirley Temple and the BBC’s own John Peel. She often makes unlikely pairings in one piece, Shelley Duvall with Coco Chanel for instance or Michael Jackson with An Sung Suu Kyi. Where her art is concerned process is the bigger part of the practice and, as she recently told the New York Times about the act of needlepoint, “it brings total stillness to your mind, because you don’t have to think about anything, really.”
Elsa Hansen Oldham has two exhibitions coming up in September 2017 – details here.