The RipOff Artists fifth anniversary Challenge concluded this week with a race to the finish, a ringing bell, and a burst of applause and cheers. The multimedia collective has been hard at work since Monday July 4 creating several works of art inspired by American Gothic by Grant Wood. As an added challenge, each artist in the collective chose their own iconic artist to imitate when “ripping off” the original piece. At 3:00 p.m. on Saturday July 9 , the time ran out on this year’s Challenge, with most artists completing their work.
Marion Trimble followed the style of Mexican painter Freida Kahlo when recreating American Gothic in mixed media. Freida and artist husband Diego Rivera replace the farming couple. Rivera holds a set of paint brushes instead of the pitchfork. The farmhouse only partially conceals Kahlo’s famous Blue House studio. Lush palm trees stand in for Iowa fields.
Kurt Hutterli, a 3-D artist specializing and found objects and recycled materials, copied the bold style of Alexander Calder. Hutterli incorporates Calder’s palette of bright primary colours for the simple wood figures, and Calder’s love of mobiles for the clouds pverhead.
JoAnn Turner, painting on a wooden cabinet, adopted the style of Byzantine iconography for a “diptych” of the farming couple, giving them the dark brown eyes and swarthy complexion more typical of Byzantine art. The drawer above was decorated with Byzantine architecture. Turner says she has more detail work to do, perhaps incorporating the delicate artwork of another medieval religious painter Hildegard of Bingen.
Encaustic artist Thea Haubrich mimicked the style of Japanese wood-block artist Katsushika Hokusai. Hokusai is well-known for The Great Wave and several paintings of Mount Fuji. In Haubrich’s reproduction, a pagoda replaces the farmhouse in the background. In front, a Japanese lady and a grimacing samurai (in wire-frame spectacles) pose together.
Quilter Dianne Birnie experimented in the style of Gustav Klimt. She combined two separate society portraits by Klimt. She enjoyed the contrast between Klimt’s high society models and the American dustbowl setting of the dirty 30s.
Photographer Russell Work adopted the style of Salvador Dali. Work took inspiration from several of Dali’s techniques: Melting timepieces were replaced with a melting cameo brooch and eyeglasses. Dali’s use of wire suspension and props were used for the farmhouse and the farmer’s chin. Dali’s famous waxed mustache twirls into curled and drooping pitchfork tines. Mimicking Dali’s Mae West painting, in which the actress’ face is transformed into a stage, Russell Work similarly transforms the farmwife’s face and blouse.
Leo Pedersen admits he struggled to find an appropriate artistic style in which to reproduce American Gothic in his chosen medium: wood. He finally settled on something very unconventional but entirely appropriate, Vancouver Sun editorial cartoonist. Len Norris. Norris was known for “skewering social mores”, much like it is supposed Grant Wood does in American Gothic. Pedersen’s work includes a typical editorial caption poking fun at the RipOff Artists, Grant Wood, and Norris himself: “…and this just when we’re through posing for that cartoonist fellow!” grumbles the farmer.
Barb Levant took her inspiration from a 1930s textile artist to recreate the apron worn in American Gothic.
In perhaps the most challenging recreation of American Gothic, fibre artist Terri Irvine knits a Picasso!
Enid Baker’s painting was inspired by the style of Modigliani, whose models are often shown with elongated bodies, oddly bent necks, and mask-like faces. Basing her design on Modigliani’s portrait Jacques and Berthe Lipchitz, she added a wine glass in Jacques hand– much more appealing than a pitchfork! The background is based on a separate Modigliani landscape.
Enid must have had time on her hands, because she also completed this “Gothic” version of Charles Schultz’s Peanuts comic. “I was tempted to add some Gothic vampire teeth,” said Baker.
Missed the show? Watch for a RipOff Artists exhibit later in the year….
Photo credit: Penelope Johnson