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FOG! Chats With Pop Culture Artist BRANDON BIRD

Art is certainly a subjective medium and it is almost impossible not to have a visceral experience when looking at a piece that hits you right in the stomach. For myself, a great piece of work conjures up feelings that defy explanation and leaves you in a schizophrenic whirlwind of exhilaration, confusion and joy. And yes, artist Brandon Bird‘s work has that exact kind of power.

Marrying a truly astonishing technical skill with the playfulness of pop culture, Bird has been able to establish a truly remarkable career that elevates the fast-growing arena of celebrity/character art into a stratosphere of its very own.

A feat that really is something to behold.

FOG! recently got a chance to chat with Brandon Bird about his work, his new book and, of course, the love affair that people have with Law and Order.

Check it out after the break.

FOG!: Your paintings depict a surreal world in which prominent characters and celebrities from beloved TV shows and films dwell. When starting a painting are you influenced by the subject alone or by what is currently making the rounds on the Internet?

Brandon Bird: I always go from the gut; I never, ever, ever pick subjects according to what’s popular at the moment. That would be foolish, given that it takes months or years to develop an oil painting–I had my fingers crossed the whole time that Guy Fieri wouldn’t die of a heart attack before I finished my Guy/Ghostbusters painting.

FOG!: You spend a great deal of time with the show Law and Order. Personally I find the show a great comfort. Wherever I am, whatever life might throw at me, I can always count on Lenny Brisco or Jack McCoy to be there. What about the show inspired you to immortalize it in some of the funniest, most interesting ways imaginable?

BB: The world would be a better place if Jack and Lennie were real. So I’m doing my part to ensure the creation of a “Law & Order” tulpa.

FOG!:  Are you surprised by how passionate people have become about Pop Culture? As a dork growing up I always felt like a loner, obsessing over the minute details of shows like M.A.N.T.I.S. and Misfits of Science or how the characters of the teen show Sweet Valley High couldn’t capture the inner demons of the Wakefield twins in the book series. But now everyone seems to be on the same wavelength. Your work, while steeped in pop culture goes further, it feels as if these could be Valentines to subjects that you have a personal relationship with. Is that true or are you simply reflecting what is happening in the culture right now?

BB: I’m actually very wary of how big pop/geek culture has become. We have this huge, shared cultural vocabulary to work from, but I’m not sure we’re using it to say anything to each other besides, “Hey, I like this thing too!” It’s a snake made out of fanboys eating its own tail. The goal should be, like you said, to use these shared concepts to relate something personal.

FOG!: Your book, Brandon Bird’s Astonishing World of Art is not your typical “Art” book, rather it’s an interactive book that breaks down the barriers of artist and audience and hands over the reins to the reader. They can color in it, paint in it, cut stuff out and basically rip it into pieces. What made you decide to go this route rather than the traditional glossy coffee table book?

BB: Well, I’ve found that some of the pieces I’ve gotten the biggest response from aren’t paintings, but things that people can hold in their hands and manipulated and play with–the SVU Valentines, the Nic Cage colorform set, etc. So I wanted to carry that idea forward and figure out a way to make the book itself an art object.

And, from a very practical perspective, publishers just weren’t interested in a plain old coffee table book, but they did seem to like stickers.

FOG!: After all this success, what is next on your plate?

BB: More drawings and paintings and products, I hope. I’m only like 10% through my list of ideas.

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