IMG MGMT: Freddie and St. Cosmas

by Jaimie Warren on July 14, 2016 IMG MGMT

[Editor’s note: IMG MGMT is a series of image-based essays by artists. This week’s author is Jaimie Warren, a photographer and performance artist, and co-creator of the community-engaged traveling collective Whoop Dee Doo. Warren exhibits at New York City galleries the Hole, Higher Pictures, and American Medium. She is a new, featured artist in ART21’s documentary series “New York Close Up”.]

These images are pulled from my personal database of thousands of saved jpgs, gifs and video clips from Internet memes, pop culture, and art history, collected over a ten-year period. At first, I mimicked them in self-portraits which I’d send to my friends as a joke, but lately, they’ve become the starting point for large scale collaborative photo recreations of scenes from art history, staged with students and communities in several cities (Raleigh, San Diego, Kansas City, New York). I scroll through the collection, mixing and matching for hours, gradually finding somewhat of a cohesive narrative that eventually forms the guts of the work. The following images inspired three of these projects. Each group is paired with music that can be heard by scrolling over the images.




Somebody to Love: Self-portrait as Freddie Mercury in re-creation of Saints Cosmas and Damian by Matteo di Pacino (1350-75), 2015

This project was developed through collaboration with three high school-aged interns, Genesis Monegro, Kim Corona and Daria Mateescu. I began with the setting of the Matteo di Pacino painting, which depicts an amputation, an illness (the plague), and a plethora of distraught medicine men and Christian saints. We brought together a collection of our own pop culture heroes to create a music video which transforms and melts the original characters in a loose and wacky narrative that’s part tribute, part love-story. The resulting mishmash documents our shared humor and tastes in a way that feels both appropriate to the collaborative spirit and joyous.






The Burial of Cosmas and Damian (Altarpiece of San Marco, 1438-1440) 2016

This series will be the basis for my next photo mural re-inventing a Fra Angelico 15th century funerary painting from the San Marco covenant in Florence. The project is a dedication to deceased pop culture heroes of mine, and I will invite contributors to pay homage to their own heroes.

Popular imagery preserves so many approaches to funerals and death – from horror movies and monsters and Dracula to deeply saddening memorial services, tributes, and public breakdowns. Even more fascinating is the easy access I have to these up-close and authentic documents; I can see a distorted and aged polaroid of Heather O’Rourke in her casket on the internet, or watch the VHS recording of GG Allin’s funeral as his decaying and unpreserved body gets decorated in album covers and beer bottles by his close friends. I can repeatedly watch the beautiful televised funerals of artists like Whitney Houston, James Brown, Michael Jackson and Jim Henson. I view their preservation as a way to honor those you love, respecting their deaths and appreciating their lives.







You Are Not Alone: Self-Portrait as Michael Jackson in a recreation of the Genealogical Trees of the Dominican Order, 2014 [link]

My first solo collaborative piece with a large community, this video was a dedication to my #1 hero, Michael Jackson. I feel very passionate about his life and his work, and his ever-changing personae has affected me deeply since childhood.

These images inspired my construction of what I believed would be Michael’s ideal family tree, and is largely based on the evaluation of Michael Jackson’s character by New York Times writer Margo Jefferson in her book On Michael Jackson. The final piece is a re-creation of a 16th century genealogical painting of a Dominican Family Tree, made by over 90 people in the San Diego community. Each character in the final piece – from Diana Ross, Elizabeth Taylor and Slash to Peter Pan, Frankenstein, E.T. and Snow White – represents a significant and inspirational figure from Jackson’s life, and also replaces one of the saints from the original painting.

In the video component of this piece, the peaceful tribute turns dark when multiple horror characters invade and terrorize Michael’s loved ones. The pinnacle moment is a standoff between Freddy Krueger and Michael Jackson, where Jackson removes Krueger’s evil knived glove to reveal a shimmering sequined glove hidden underneath. Krueger and Jackson are both burn victims, and potentially as misunderstood as other characters in this piece such as Frankenstein and the Elephant Man – all shunned from their communities for their “hideous” appearances, when perhaps they are all angels at heart.

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