Classical landscapes interrupted by flying lemons. Silk camisoles carved from wood. Justin Bieber’s famous face painted into Renaissance-era art portraits. All this and more will be on display this fall at the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum.
The museum will return from a brief summer hiatus and kick off three new exhibits with an opening reception and street festival on Sept. 13. Each new exhibit combines classical techniques with modern trappings.
In the Dobson Main Gallery, museumgoers can find a selection of well-known paintings by great artists — with a twist. “Messin’ with the Masters” has a collection of work from more than 20 artists from around the country who put their own spin on classical art.
From a Disney-style Snow White with a full-sleeve tattoo to a Da Vinci-esque “Last Supper” interrupted by mythical creatures, the images in this exhibit alter cultural icons.
Los Angeles-based artist Mike Reynolds, who has two paintings in the show, draws his inspiration from a source that seems more apt for a teen girl’s in-class doodling than a 30-something’s serious art: pop star Justin Bieber.
Reynolds stumbled on this unlikely muse in 2011, when he was preparing to move from Miami to Los Angeles and began looking into the entertainment industry that dominated his new hometown. Bieber was everywhere, and Reynolds saw a striking similarity between one photo of the teen heartthrob and a Renaissance-era painting of a baby.
Reynolds painted Bieber’s face into a version of that painting. Then, another classic image. And another.
“It started out as almost a joke, like a fun light-hearted painting,” he says. “Now, it’s like he’s traveling through history.”
The Mesa exhibit contains two of Reynolds’ JB series, one in which he is painted as both a father and son in a portrait and one of him painting his own self-portrait.
While there aren’t any superstars hiding out in the other exhibits, Patrick McGrath Muñiz’s solo exhibit in the South Gallery adds modern-day satire to a traditional altarpiece style.
McGrath Muñiz, a half-Irish-American, half-Puerto Rican bases his art on the retablo altarpieces he saw growing up Catholic in Puerto Rico.
“My art is mostly multicultural,” he says. “I see a continuation between what’s happening now with consumerist propaganda and what was happening in colonial times.”
“Devocionales: Neo-Colonial ‘Retablos’ from an Archetypal Perspective” consists of oil paintings in the traditional retablo form that combine modern settings and objects with themes from tarot and astrology.
In a painting depicting the tarot card of the Magician, for example, McGrath Muñiz shows the magician in full robes working at a fast food restaurant below a sign promising a “pink slime combo.”
The north gallery’s exhibit, “From Lemons to Lingerie: The Still-Life Redefined,” features work from two Valley-based artists, Linda Ingraham and Tom Eckert.
Eckert, a professor at Arizona State University, carves and paints realistic-looking cloth from pieces of wood. Many of his carvings depict scenarios, like a piece of cloth holding a rock in midair or another cloth draped over a floating book, that wouldn’t be possible with actual fabric.
“To create illusions is really what I’m into,” he says.
He started out as a painter, but Eckert began working with three-dimensional objects in graduate school. Now, he works out in his studio around his teaching schedule, carving and painting several pieces at any given stretch of time.
“I view the carved wood as my canvas,” he says. “I never really got over painting.”
Ingraham focuses on mixed-media photography, or images created through the manipulation of photos.
Several of the images in the exhibit come from her surreal creative landscape series, which incorporate lemons and other objects into classical scenes.
“It has been said that art is a reflection of the times and this exhibit… is taking historical art and making it relevant for today,” she says. “It is also poking fun at the ‘high art’ that a lot of artists study in art history, which is always entertaining. It might bring in some viewers who don’t regularly go to art museums because of fun factor.”
If you go
What: Mesa Contemporary Arts’s three new fall exhibits
When: Opening reception is 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sept. 13. After that, exhibits are on display 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Mesa Contemporary Arts at Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main St.
Cost: Free admission
Information: (480) 644-6560 or www.MesaArtsCenter.com (click on Museum)
• Julia, a junior at Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is an intern for the East Valley Tribune. Contact her at (480) 898-6514 or firstname.lastname@example.org.