With the advent of popular reality shows such as Jersey Shore and 16 and Pregnant, the era in which MTV focused on music videos is over. But that doesn’t mean the artistic value and explosive creativity of these videos have been forgotten.
As a result, Chris Marrs Piliero and Dave MacDowell have invaded Meltdown Comics with an exhibition dedicated solely to works inspired by the music videos of some of the most popular songs in music history.
“I Want My Music Video Art Show” spans a variety of mediums, sizes and aesthetic flavors. The featured pieces inject the playfulness and boldness of the videos that served as their creative spark.
The minute you walk into Meltdown Comics, you are fully steeped in the comic book, anime and manga culture with everything from adapted Shakespeare plays to comic books to furry Domo figures.
Make your way through this comic book lover heaven and you’ll discover a small gallery in the back. Strung with paper lanterns, the small space holds a surprising amount of art pieces with differently sized works. The pieces have descriptions relating to the music video that inspired the piece, fitting almost like puzzle pieces to a thrillingly eclectic whole.
On the walls are the recognizable faces of popular music titans from the always-legendary Michael Jackson to today’s pop divas like Ke$ha and Lady Gaga.
In fact, Mother Monster has a fair amount of pieces dedicated to her as well.
“Let’s Make a Sandwich” is James Roper’s highly-detailed, playful piece inspired by Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” music video. A chain-linked fence, flames and leopard print, among other recognizable objects in the music video, flank a four-armed female figure with caution tape for a face.
The piece’s bright colors and emphasis on an elusive, cutesy female make the piece feel like manga (the Japanese genre of cartoons and comic books). As for composition, the piece is ambitious, assailing the viewer with a mélange of colors and designs. Fans of the video will find the piece all the more enjoyable, as they can appreciate the specific details Roper chose to include.
This is the case for most of the pieces, but it would be unwise to dismiss any of the works simply because you’re not familiar with any given music video. You don’t need to have watched all the videos that served as the artists’ inspiration to appreciate their obvious talent and creativity.
Sarah Joncas’ piece, “This is Hardcore,” inspired by the Pulp song’s music video, shows a woman lying on a bed with a telephone and a pool of blood next to her. The piece’s textures and shadows are extraordinarily executed. Certain parts of the piece are covered in a shade of gray that makes it seem as if actual shadows are roaming over the work. Moreover, the figure lies on an exquisitely rendered pillow with every fold adding to a startlingly realistic depiction.
Many of the pieces in the show defy categorization in terms of medium. On first glance, Chrystal Chan’s piece inspired by Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” video looks like a photograph. A closer look reveals the piece simply manages to capture the quality of a photo, even going so far as to use small blots of white in the background to give the appearance of bright lights. Additionally, Lady Gaga’s pouty face and sexual aura are perfectly captured, adding to the piece’s realism.
Brandi Read’s piece inspired by the Foo Fighter’s “Everlong” video creates realistic faces as well, but merges them into a more comic book-like aesthetic. The comedic piece, resembling the humor of the “Everlong” video appears to be two comic book pages, sans dialogue, pasted together.
Though most of the pieces are light in their humor, some make commentary on pop music culture. John Geiser’s piece, “Smells Like Teen Worship,” inspired by the music video for Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” shows Kurt Cobain in religious garb and a saint-like pose. The muted colors and antique style make the textured piece haunting, almost as if Cobain were emerging from the shadows.
The work comments on how Cobain was so revered he was practically worshipped; seeing his image in this serious manner, save for the small alien on his shirt, is equal parts chilling and thought-provoking.
Looking around at the pieces, it is incredible to see how much popular music and popular music videos have impacted our lives. The golden era of music videos might be gone, but we still have some videos that are true pieces of art and can even be inspiration for something new.