There is an old adage which says that "Art reflects life". Artists constantly try to reinvent reality in their work, to teach observers something about the human experience by being clever, blunt, subtle, or blatant. Jason Mecier, an artist living and working in California, takes this idea of art reflecting life very literally. For years, Mecier has been creating celebrity mosaics, some of which he calls "junk drawer portraits", composed of various materials that in some way tell a story about the celebrity subject. In this way, Mecier does more than replicate an image that people will recognize; he builds a meaningful collage with real depth and substance, holding a figurative mirror up to these well-known faces and reflecting their personality in a way that the paparazzi never will.
Here, Mecier creates an image of Donald Trump, the larger-than-life real estate mogul, using dollar bills, cell phones, hair products, diamonds, credit cards, calculators, and dress shoes. Trump's public image is well-dressed and manicured, but most of all, lavish and wealthy. The physical contents of Mecier's mosaics delve deeper into real portraiture, much further than a photograph possibly can.
Donald Trump (Zoomed In View - Chest)
Mecier created all of these mosaics by hand, using objects he had found from second-hand stores or other random sources. As his notoriety grew and his work was seen by more people, he was able to directly contact some celebrities, many of whom were happy to submit materials from their personal life to be used in his unique portraits. In his exchanges with celebrities, he has ended up with countless treasures, including a bag of Pamela Anderson's laundry, and even a letter Paris Hilton wrote to him from prison.
Mecier's style is difficult to categorize, but he says that some of his major influences are Surrealists and Pop artists like Dali and Warhol. When I look at his mosaics, however, they immediately remind me of the color blending and subtle suggestions of shapes that defined the Impressionist movement. I think his inclusion of so many pop culture items within these intricate mosaics could almost be considered a new movement, of which Mecier is the founder. Perhaps he should be named the first Pop Impressionist?
Andy Warhol (Zoomed In View - Hair)
Pamela Anderson (Candy)
Pamela Anderson (Zoomed In View - Left Shoulder)
The reason for Mecier using certain materials in many of his works is self-explanatory, like licorice to create Willy Wonka, or marijuana and joints to compose a portrait of Snoop Dogg (Snoop Lion?), but the connection between other celebrities and their respective materials is a bit harder to understand. This puzzle can become a fun challenge for observers as they try to piece together the symbolism that Mecier was aiming for. See if you can figure out the method behind his madness for some of these images...
Willy Wonka (Licorice)
Snoop Dogg (Joints and Marijuana)
While most of these portraits are whimsical or funny, others show the much darker story behind some of these troubled public figures. Mecier did a series of portraits entitled "Pills", which commemorated and commented on the tragic deaths of a number of beloved celebrities in recent years. It is with works like these where the responsibility of artists becomes complicated. For art to be an honest reflection of life, it must include both sides of the story, the flashbulbs as well as the failings, the glamour along with the grief.
Amy Winehouse (Pills)
Michael Jackson (Pills)
The level of detail and precision in these pieces certainly speak to Mecier's dedication and patience, and he revealed that all of these portraits take at least 50 hours to complete, while the most complex pieces can take months of work and hundreds of hours to finish. His eye-catching style and intriguing approach to portraiture has gained him plenty of celebrity friends, and he has collaborated with dozens of them for his various projects. He is always looking for new subject matter though, and some of the celebs he still wants to artistically connect with are Ellen, Oprah, Hugh Hefner, Lindsay Lohan, and Yoko Ono.
Taylor Swift (Good and Plenty)
My two favorite portraits by Mecier are actually made from one of my favorite foods. I don't know if there is any significance behind using Wild Links Beef Jerky to depict these two prominent political figures, but half the fun of Mecier's art is trying to guess what message he is trying to convey. I can think of a few possible meanings, none of which are particularly patriotic. But what do you think? What deeper meaning is he trying to express in the two images below?
Barack Obama (Beef Jerky)
Mitt Romney (Beef Jerky)
Whether you are glued to celebrity specials on E! or you consciously ignore the glitz and glamor of celebrity life, popular culture is an unavoidable part of our media. Mecier approaches this cultural obsession head-on (literally), and tries to create interesting and commentative art that is both entertaining and cautionary. His work speaks volumes about consumer culture and the unfortunate trend of people defining themselves by things.
Does Mecier's work make you come back for a second look? Or do you prefer your celebrity portraits in the traditional glossy pages of a magazine? Speak your mind, and if this kind of art turns you on or tunes you in, then share it with others!
Explore more of the amazing world of Mecier's mosaic portraits at his website!
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All images subject to copyright by the artist.