Art students give new life to old, bad and weird paintings

Thomas Kinkade, painter of light? Check. Cheesy couple in a romantic pose, circa 1970s? Check. Portrait of a cute little bunny, or is it a rat? Check.

 
Art student Lynthia Edwards took a traditional portrait of a refined lady and rendered her into a modernized geisha complete with Japanese art elements.  
It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but some works of art are just bad. Some are so bad they're good; others are just asking for it.

Art students in UAB Professor Gary Chapman's painting class have given bad art new life. They scavenged the family home and grandma's attic and scoured thrift stores and garage sales to find the perfect "bad" painting. Their mission: Turn that awful art into a winner by re-imagining the painting. Much of the art used in this project is mass-produced, although one student re-imagined a painting done by her grandmother.

The works of 35 students and Chapman will be exhibited one night only, from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 19, in Bare Hands Gallery, 109 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. South. All of the works will be for sale.

This is the second time Chapman has done the "Recycled Art" project with his students; the first time was a smashing success. The results are hilarious, beautiful, irreverent, clever, silly and even scary, Chapman says. Some of the alterations are up-front and in your face while others are incredibly subtle.

These college students are focused on developing their craft and vision in pursuit of becoming artists, Chapman says. They are challenged to express themselves in unique and creative ways, yet at the same time, he says, they are bombarded with cliché images and pedestrian works that were never intended to be original but in fact mimic everything we have already seen.

"This assignment affords these artists multiple options to this dilemma — a chance to strike back, to take the tacky and cliché and drive it into the ground or to take a discarded work of art that was once seen as valuable or precious and transform it into something worth looking at once again, even if for only one night," Chapman says.

Joshua Hepworth, a senior from Alabaster, took a peaceful Western landscape and created a scene of rampaging zombies for the first "Recycled Art" show. This time, he took on Kinkade, that famed "painter of light," to create a near-billboard-size work, "Consumers Digest," which twists the artist's well-known moniker to something more like "painter of blight."

"The recycled art show is about taking art that is bad and making something good out of it," Hepworth says. "My piece is a Thomas Kinkade wall mural. Kinkade is the most collected living artist, even though his paintings have no conceptual meaning. Zombies consume without thought or remorse, which is why they are perfect for invading Kinkade's work and consuming all."

Kerrie Pirkle, created a re-work from a traditional picture of the Vatican titled "Romantic Rome."

"Recycling a painting is somehow taboo," says Pirkle, a senior from Jasper. "You have a strong desire to change something in the painting, but at the same time you feel the need to hide in case you get caught." 

Mary McCann, a senior from Madison, created two pieces and transformed sappy, ceramic cast pictures into objects of good and evil. "I did not destroy this work of art. I enhanced it and saved it," she says. "It was creepy before, and now it's creepy as hell."