Hilarity on display

You Are Here (Wonderful Countryside) by Deb Douglas

By Sarah Weinman

Three words can describe the basis for the hilarious exhibition On the Shoulders of…at Hoffman LaChance Contemporary Art in Maplewood: thrift store art.  Local artists have reworked paintings, photographs, and other art objects found at thrift stores.  Below I describe just a few of my favorites:

You Are Here (Wonderful Countryside) is a large piece reworked by Deb Douglas.  Originally titled Wonderful Country Side, it’s a faded landscape with a meadow, trees, and mountains.  Douglas painted you are here. in big black letters across the image and signed it above the first artist’s signature.  The original artist intended the landscape to have a timeless and idyllic feeling but Douglas imposes on it a modern concept of space and mapping (you are here, like on Google Maps).  By doing so, she raises the question, Where is here, exactly?


Like Douglas’ work, Michael Hoffman’s Toxic Avenger provides a great take on an otherwise generic painting.  Hoffman chose an image of men on a river with a farm in the foreground and houses in the background.  He then added a huge black and blue creature coming out of the trees at the right, extending its tentacles into the scene.  The creature grabs a cow and reaches for the men in the boat.  One of the houses across the river burns – it seems likely that Hoffman added this effect, thought it’s hard to tell.  The white spiderlike legs of another creature also emerge from the trees.  I found this doctored image funny because of the jarring juxtaposition of country life and monsters.

Some artists like Danielle Spradley opted to ignore older paintings and comment on current pop culture. Spradley modified a poster for her piece, titled Grand Supreme.  The original poster reads, in lines of purple, pink, and turquoise: “We want the Grand Supreme.  You have to be the total package.  My daughter is a firecracker on stage.  She looks just like a lifesized doll.  It’s just part of the competition.”  At the bottom, the poster says Toddlers & Tiaras, TLC.  Over part of the original text, the artist drew two exotic dancers in explicit poses and filled in their outlines with drawings of dollar bills.  Spradley may comment on the imagined futures of these girls, or perhaps that their mothers see them as empty money-making vessels.  Without the TV show’s title as context, the original text could be taken to describe strippers or exotic dancers.

This entire exhibition is whimsical, clever, and pokes fun at the staidness of older, generic, or trashy art.  The show contains a lot of great pieces and I had difficulty picking just a few to highlight.

On the Shoulders of… is on view through March 30 at Hoffman LaChance Contemporary Art, located at 2713 Sutton Blvd. in downtown Maplewood.  Gallery hours are Friday and Saturday from 12:00pm – 3:00pm and by appointment. For more information, call 314-960-5322 or visit http://www.hoffmanlachancefineart.com/.