Ashley Oubré – Visual Trickery

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  1. “Brenda”, 11 x 14, graphite pencil on paper
  2. “Ivy League”, 11 x 14, graphite pencil on paper
  3. “Prestige”, 11 x 14, graphite pencil on paper
  4. “Swimfan”, 11 x 14, graphite pencil on paper

The images above, while indistinguishable from photographs  were drawn by Ashley Oubré,  27, a self-taught artist from Washington  D.C. Oubré’s portraits exist in a realm far beyond mere pencil drawings in what can only be defined as “hyperrealism.” Oubré’s pieces, each executed with immaculate detail and precision, vary in degrees of abstraction, a refreshing rarity for this genre of art.  Her subjects are often composed in a world of vacancy (sometimes figuratively; either “floating” on the page; rendered in a distant corner; or with literal bodily extraction), mirroring the artist’s own struggles of isolation and loneliness.  To view Oubré’s work is to be invited into an “Alice in Wonderland”-like world; the viewer is first enchanted by the beauty of her craftsmanship, only to find himself trapped in a world both undefined and surreal.

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To learn more about Ashley, and to see her portfolio, visit www.ashleyoubre.com or e-mail her at info@ashleyoubre.com.

Going at it with William Hundley

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by Ginger Rudolph

When I first contacted photographer William Hundley, I had a hunch that he didn’t take himself too seriously. I was hard-pressed to believe that anyone putting a Chihuahua on top of cheeseburgers had an ego complex. Hundley’s photo series has a run of eccentric themes with simple titles. Because of the nature of the photographs, I wanted Hundley to have fun with his interview answers. “Let your personality shine through – think ‘humor with a splash of serious’,” I told him. So, without a spectacular setup, you’re about to read our informal back and forth.

HAHA Magazine: Let’s do a review of your past photographs – a ‘mini retrospective,’ if you will. What comes to mind when you look back at “Things I Do in My Garage”?

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“The Oblivion of Sleep” from the photo series, Things I Do In My Garage

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“Wet Balls” from the photo series, Things I Do In My Garage

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“Little Clouds” from the photo series, Things I Do In My Garage

William Hundley: Going into my garage and doing some more things.

HM: I left myself wide open for that…

WH: Yeah, you did. No, seriously, I am currently working on some things in my garage for an installation in Austin on July 17th at Co-Lab.

HM: There’s a particular piece in that series that grabbed my attention; it’s entitled “This Business of Art”.

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“This Business of Art” from Things I Do In My Garage

WH: It was a collaboration with Paul Moncus and Peter Von Diest. I bought the trucks at a garage sale that morning, and Paul picked out the book at a nearby Goodwill. After making this piece, we envisioned a machine that would put wheels on any book that was run through it. Like an assembly line scenario that could be used to turn every book in a library into a huge population of books on wheels.

HM: Books seem to be a running theme in your work – there’s one in the series “w/ cheeseburgers” as well. The books you choose all have really great titles by the way – great conversation starters. Do they serve a purpose?

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“Chihuahua on Cheeseburgers” from the photo series, w/cheeseburgers

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“Art Now Vol. 2 on Cheeseburgers” from the photo series, w/cheeseburgers

WH: Convenience.

HM: Convenience? I have to say I was looking for something more, you know…meaningful. But I can live with that. And what about the cheeseburgers, because I could amuse myself all day long by taking wild guesses at what “w/ cheeseburgers” is about. But something tells me that your explanation for this series will be much more entertaining. Please do ramble on about how you came up with this piece – there are cheeseburgers under chairs and fake Easter Island statues. Were you smoking anything weird as you conceived it? Or did you give that to the dog?

WH: I’m not too sure how the cheeseburger series started, but I know that when I began to show the photos to others, it perplexed them. It is ridiculous. It is a waste of food. Why would you do such a thing? What does it mean? Do you eat them afterward? Is the Chihuahua real? Were you drunk when you thought of this? Are you drunk right now? Are you trying to look at my ass? Are you even paying attention to me?

Seriously, these are all valid questions, but I prefer to let the images do the talking. Enjoy.

HM: “Little Naked Person Storage” is some of your more recent work. I have to tell you; every time I look at the pictures, I wonder how you persuaded them to be a part of this. Are the spots they’re cradled in important or just unused space now filled by warm bodies?

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Little Naked Person Storage (TW)

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Little Naked Person Storage (JP)

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Little Naked Person Storage (WS)

WH: Sometimes when I talk to people, I look at their size and then think of the different places I could put them. I interacted with a man at the store the other day and I wanted to put him in a nearby recycle bin. He would have been a perfect fit.

HM: Have you noticed that certain elements are recycled in other series? Do the separate series have an intertwining meaning?

WH: I don’t know; do they?

HM: I asked you first.

WH: Then yes, there are some recycled elements in my photographic work. “Meaning” is something that the viewer should apply to what they see or try to find in something that they don’t understand.

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“Dress for Less” from the photo series, Entopic Phenomena

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“Tommy Gun” from the photo series, Friends

HM: I feel guilty for enjoying this chat so much. Now I feel obligated to punish you with clichéd questions so that people will feel like they’re conferring with the artist in you…

What do you see as your strongest period of work? Why?

WH: I am probably stronger today than I have ever been.

HM: How long does it typically take to plan out a photo series?

WH: I am not big on planning.

HM: All these photos seem like they took some pretty intense setup time…any good stories? The shot that just didn’t happen? The dog that wouldn’t stay put?

WH: Yeah, there have been so many silly, scary, and downright ridiculous encounters along the way…I guess my favorite would be when we almost got knifed on the east side by a crazy old woman.

HM: I’d like to hear more about the crazy old woman, please.

WH: She was old, crazy and did not speak English. She kept yapping at us and pointing for us to go away. We might have been on her property, but I couldn’t tell. I just kept smiling and saying “OK” and continued to shoot photos. She went away and came back with a huge kitchen knife and started swinging it through the air. It was really a beautifully bizarre moment.

HM: Ok, enough of that. Here’s series of silly questions: Just what you do in the garage when no one is looking?

WH: Sing.

HM: If a cheeseburger was slated to be your last meal, what are you going to have it with?

WH: Ipecac

HM: It’s a “Little Naked Person Storage” horror shot…where would you be terrified to be put naked for the shot?

WH: A heated oven

HM: We just met at a party, and you’re trying to impress me by explaining the series “Entoptic Phenomena”. Sell it to me in two short sentences.

WH: I’m wasted! Here is my card.

It you’d like to see more of William Hundley’s work, check it out at  www.williamhundley.com
 


all photos courtesy of William Hundley

Serving it up with Food Party’s, Thu Tran

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Ok…This is Thu Tran (sometimes Thu can get crazy).

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And this is Thu on the set of her show Food Party.

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I like to describe it to newcomers as Pee-Wee’s Playhouse meets Martha Stewart on crack.  Thu has created this highly addictive cooking show where there isn’t much cooking going on. Instead, look for hijinks, tom foolery (I’ve been looking to bring that word back), colorful characters, cardboard sets, and puppets.  Make that lots of insane puppets.

In my favorite Food Party episode, Thu has dinner with French Baguette (it’s exactly that, a chain-smoking French baguette, resplendent in silver sunglasses and a miniature John Water’s mustache). They’ve barely finished their first course of Mountain Dew Cornish Hen when Baguette announces in his heavy French accent that he’s feeling unwell. He’s later taken to the hospital and pronounced with a case of the croutons due to a nasty yeast infection.  It’s a typical Food Party storyline spiced with your basic Thu-liciousness.

Like most loyal Food Party fans, I stumbled across the show in its early 2008 incarnation on YouTube. At that time, Food Party was being filmed in Thu’s apartment with her friends helping hand-make the sets, puppets, and props.  Since then, the Independent Film Channel picked the show up in 2009; its second season will begin airing on the IFC channel on April 27 at 10pm ET.

A few weeks ago, I got the opportunity to visit the set and watch them film an episode.  As I approached, I was greeted by a couple of guys outside touching up huge, brightly-colored glittered stalks of corn and Thu, who was lounging around on break with a zombie.  Perfect time for a quick interview – right?

HAHA MAG:  I have to let you know, my favorite puppet is Baguette.  Is he still around?

Tru Tran: Yeah, he’s still here. We kill Baguette all the time…he gets killed again and again. Actually, we kill puppets off all the time. But they always manage to find their way back if we need them.

HM:  What’s different since the filming of Food Party has been moved from your apartment and into a studio?

TT: We have room for a lot more stuff – more puppets – more sets…there’s constant stimulus.

HM:  There really aren’t any traditional foods being prepared on the show.  At the outset, did you know you didn’t want the show to consist of the standard “mix this with that” formula?

TT:  Initially, I did try to be a bit more informative, but I realized it wasn’t really what I was interested in.  I wasn’t interested in providing information or instructing anyone.  I was more interested in providing a visual experience. I tried to draw from what I enjoyed about cooking shows – you’re looking at the food and drooling; you’re not really trying to learn anything.  All the instructions I give on the show are totally inaccurate.

HM: Yeah, I should know.  I tried some of them.

(Thu looks at me for a moment in surprise and then bursts out laughing)

TT:  No…no … don’t. (still laughing) Just watch it; just sit back and relax.

HM: (head down in mock shame) I wanted to see if they would actually come out right – Nope.

HM:  What’s been your favorite Food Party concoction?

TT:  There was an episode where I prepared eight different kinds of turkeys.  At the time, my friends and I worked at country clubs, and they used to give us free turkeys for Thanksgiving, and we’d battle each other by cooking up all different types of turkeys.  All the turkeys we prepared for that episode were part of a battle we had done.

HM:  How about some of the foods on set. What have you made that’s made you really ill?

TT:  Ill?

HM: Sick.

TT:  The donut lasagna we had on set today made me kind of ill – we filmed about four or five takes of me eating that. I was starting to get a bit nauseous towards the end.

(If you’re thinking you haven’t seen her do the donut lasagna yet, that’s because it’s featured in an upcoming episode.)

HM:  If someone had never seen Food Party before and you had to explain it to them, what would you say?

TT:  Oh, that’s always hard; I tend to stutter a lot when I try.  It’s very confusing to explain because it combines a lot of things we all enjoy.  It’s basically a cooking show with puppets, but it’s beyond that.  They’re little short films with absurd narratives, characters – it’s totally wild. I like to keep the episodes self-contained, so you don’t really need to watch them in a row to catch what’s going on.  Each episode is its own little short story – there a resolution at the end.

HM: What’s been your favorite episode so far?

TT: That’s hard to say. (“You gotta say something in there,” Someone from the crew yells.) Whole heartedly I love every episode we’ve filmed.  We’re all pretty excited about all the episodes that we film, otherwise we wouldn’t work hard to make it look cool. Honestly…I do this so I can hang out with my friends all day.

 

Photos courtesy of IFC

Featured Artist – Marie-Claude Marquis

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Marie-Claude Marquis Talks about Painting her Generation and Stripping Down.

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Image: Marie-Claude Marquis, I am not hiding

Montreal based artist Marie-Claude Marquis is causing a stir with her paintings – gritty interpretations of everyday occurrences that capture the heart of the subcultures evolving around her.  We caught up with her to ask her a few questions about what influences her work and what she jams to in her studio.

HAHA MAG: Your paintings have some very unusual titles. Which comes first for you, the title or the piece?

Marie-Claude Marquis: It is totally the piece. The title comes at the end, depending on the final result. Usually, I want my titles to guide the spectator without saying too much.

HM: What’s really striking about them is the crazy color palette going on. I read somewhere that you used to study makeup. Does that at all influence your choice in color?

MCM: I don’t think my makeup studies really influenced my color palette. I have always drawn and painted very colorfully. In fact, it is a lot more difficult for me to have a more selective color palette. I have difficulty choosing between all the pretty colors, so often I put them all on.

HM: While we’re on the topic of color, what is the significance, if any, of the blue eyes in most of your people in each piece?

MCM: There isn’t really any specific meaning. I think it’s mostly because shades of blue and green pop more. It seems like lighter eyes have a little more expression in them, but brown eyes are pretty too!

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Image: Marie-Claude Marquis, Trash la vie

HM: Since 2005, you’ve had several solo shows.  What would you say has evolved about your work from then until now? Is there a specific focus to each piece?

MCM: My work has definitely evolved since 2005, mostly on a technical level. I still portrait some of the same subjects but I try to go outside the box a lot more now. I try to create more contrasts with different techniques, like more gestural backgrounds and more realistic characters.

HM: The settings for your characters are often scene stealers. Where does your imagery come from?

MCM: My work is an account of the everyday world in which I live. It illustrates the lifestyle and the imagination of people of my generation and especially of those that evolve around me. My work questions human responses, the intimacy of daily life and the uniqueness of each individual. Painting allows me to play with characters and locations to create familiar scenes in which we can identify ourselves. By creating stagings through photo montages, I create each of my projects on the computer, and then I do it manually on the canvas. This way of working is, for me, a right balance between technology and traditional. We can find in my works references to the people of my generation, fashion, illustration, advertising, design, to the city, graffiti, tattooing, etc.

HM: Some of your pieces peer into such intimate moments; are we meant to be voyeurs of the lifestyles reflected or of the reactions of your subjects?

MCM: These days, I think we are more voyeuristic. We watch reality shows, we look at a person’s Facebook profile even if we don’t really talk them, etc. So, yes this sense of voyeurism could be applied to my paintings, mostly those about a couple’s interactions, but in general I think it’s more about showing those awkward situations in the everyday life that will make you smile rather than those that will make you blush and cringe.

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 Image: Marie-Claude Marquis, I can see through you

HM: You recently had a photo exhibition called ‘Tandem’ in which you and your boyfriend examined life as a couple by recreating daily scenes. You’d set up a scene, and then both take a series of photos. He turned the images into a photographic series, while you transformed your shots into paintings. What’s interesting is that very ordinary things are being displayed here – making out, doing laundry, arguing – yet you both express a very different take on the moment. Your work seems to have this prevailing theme of peeking into the life of others. Was this collaboration a natural evolution from looking into your subjects’ lives to some introspection of your own?

 

MCM: This exhibition was really a representation of a couple’s life in general. To get to those images, we both looked at our own experience or the experience of those around us. The models were not necessarily couples in real life, but actors for our project.

HM: Did you find one medium stronger than the other?

MCM: I think both mediums have different reasons for being there, but I think the paintings were a little more dominant because of the close-ups and the exaggerated expressions of the characters. As for the photos, they were impressive because of the general ambiance in them.

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Image: Marie-Claude Marquis, First Date

 

HM: I’m always interested to know who artists think buys their pieces. What type of person do you think purchases your work?

MCM: The majority of buyers are people in their twenties or thirties. I think more often then not, it’s people who are similar to me, but I’m sure there are exceptions. One of my paintings was bought by a gentleman in his fifties who thought the background of the painting resembled the acres of his land. Clearly, my artwork speaks to everyone differently.

HM: Let’s get a bit voyeuristic. When you’re painting, what type of vibe do you create for yourself? Do you work in silence? Are you rocking out to your favorite band?

MCM: I love this question! Honestly, it’s different each day. Most of the time I like working in silence and thinking, but sometimes I need to go a little bit crazy and put on some music. I’m really not a glamorous artist when I’m painting. I’m in my underwear or pajamas (it depends if my neighbor is on his balcony or not) with dirty hair and paint on my forehead.

www.marieclaudemarquis.com