“Universal Product Code”, The Human Condition Series, No. XX

26 Mar

The common expression I get from this piece involves a combination of raised eyebrows and a slightly agape jaw. The common sentence I get from this piece from others is either “Oh my goodness” and or “What does Disney think of this”. I should say, first and foremost, this painting has no hidden meaning and there is no agenda whatsoever in the statement. There is however a history to it, which I will explain below.

Now while I’ve been a painter, and thats what my skill set is in , I have held careers that are quite the opposite of that. I double majored in business, and used that end of my degree to work in the corporate side of things. I was in accessory buying at Amazon.com, production management in the music industry, and as of 2008, I got offered a job in category licensing (marketing/procurement). Specifically I worked in the Health and Beauty sector at Disney, managing relationships with our licensees, sales teams, and brand management. It ranged from the steady peg fillers as Oral-B toothbrushes, down to the ultra glamorous MAC Villains campaign.

For the most part my art was always separate. I’d crunch numbers in the daytime in my jobs, and come home and paint. My shows were generally at street level and catered to the cabaret, drag, and nightlife crowd. They were mildly successful in their own microcosm (World of Wonder Gallery, Hollywood), but never near the level that Disney artists had. I’d walk the hallways and see these great renditions of Mickey by Trevor Carlton and Mike Kungl in the corporate hallways, and aspire that one day I’d be at that level.

In 2009 I had done a dual portrait of Mickey, which was somewhat of an open call for Disney artists to do (even though I wasn’t an artist for them). This was for the “Mickey By” Program which involved artistic interpretation of Mickey’s classic standing pose. My dual Mickey, comparatively to my work now is vastly different. The lines were shaky, the form was blotchy and strange, and I could only comprehend CP Cadmium Orange and Light Ultramarine Blue code at that time. Granted it was shown in the main hall at Disney Consumer Products with the other work for 2 years (I think it might be still up there), but it wasn’t even near on par with the other works around it. This piece was a haunting reminder to me of where I was at that moment. No opportunities really came from it.

In 2010 I had brought a portrait of Divine into my cubicle. I was having my first solo show in San Francisco at the Glama-Rama Gallery, and was severely behind in my work, so I’d paint on my lunch breaks in an empty conference room. An administrative assistant happened to walk by when I was working and said “Thats a pretty lady, …” To which I slightly paused, because I couldn’t tell whether she was being serious or sarcastic. Before I could answer, she said “why aren’t you a creative for Disney rather than in business?” and I just told her my thing…. that I couldn’t see color, and that photoshop and illustrator would never really work out for me, … and that studio painting just seemed to be what I loved despite its ancient craft.

Truthfully, I knew I was good, but I didn’t know that I was good enough for Disney. At least not yet. I was just learning how to reuse my hands in this craft after losing my ability a bit before that. I was learning how to make my lines straighter, my forms tighter, and things on par.

She showed her boss, who happened to be the head of creative for Fine Art, Fashion, and Home. He loved the work, and I began to do more pieces. I painted more and more, and really they were just for the interiors of Disney Consumer Products. It was then suggested after months and months of working on pieces here and there, that I be pitched to Disney Fine Art. I built an entire collection for them to see, and in 11/2010, after multiple conversations, and presentations… I was accepted into their Pop Art Division.

Mind you, I came into this position as a temp worker in the business sector. I never had an INKLING of an idea that this was ever going to happen to me. I was too busy struggling to survive to really have any dreams of being an artist… let alone, an artist for Disney. I thought a lot of about Disney Consumer Products when creating this piece. Literally this company is more than just animation and art, its the number one licensor in the world. This Universal Product Code is literally just a fact, these are products… Products that inspire, products that keep children healthy, products that provide entertainment and make people laugh. Sure there is some incredibly harsh criticism about the company over the years over their actions, but this piece has nothing to do with that. Its simply a factual statement against a recognizable background with a history of where I used to be.

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