This show looks like a lot of work and a lot of people involved. How many people did it take to make this exhibition?
It's so true! This show, especially the large Fra Angelico piece, took such a crazy amount of people! There is also a performance at the opening reception with several friends, and the people who have helped me to make costumes and makeup, so many! If I had to guess, I think about 250 people were involved in the making of everything. Friends, and friends of friends. That's What Friends Are For!
How did you choose who you wanted to play in the Fra Angelico altarpiece?
I chose the incredible Missy Elliot analogous representation of the Christ figure mostly due to the significance of the black garbage bag costume she wore in both her The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly) music video and at the 2006 MTV Music Video Awards. She wore this outfit in response to her record company's claims that she needed to loose a significant amount of weight to become a successful recording artist. Audiences had an overwhelmingly positive response to the costume and she subsequently became a style icon. It's such an inspiring story and such an absolutely incredible costume.
Who is your favorite impersonation?
I think Rodney Dangerfield never gets old. And I am constantly impersonating Austin Powers and Jim Carey from The Mask. I love it all!
Self-portrait as Bon Bon Jovi by food'lebrities (Celebrities as Food Series), 2014
Which is your favorite photo in this exhibition?
I really love Tuna Turner because the colours are so lush, I love saying "Chicken Tikka Masalvador Dali" to people, and I really love myself as a "ham". But of course, the giant Fra Angelico as photographs (though presented as video in the show) are so gorgeous. It's my first professionally done piece and it feels so professional, yet it still keeps my sense of humor and ridiculousness alive.
Why did you decide to go from photos to GIF what does GIF allow you to add to things?
In the same way I was so into these weird found memes and photoshop contests, finding these weird GIFs were just as exciting if not more because they are all sourced from horror movies, predominantly B-movies. I have always loved horror movies and haunted houses, and this not only gave me the chance to make bad horror props, but also to start working in more of a video format, which seems to be the direction my work is headed in.
Self-portrait as Lasagna Harding by food'lebrities (Celebrities as Food Series)
How come there is no Michael Jackson Totally Looks Like (TLL)? Does he just not look like anything else?
That is a really amazing question! I think it's because he is so important to me that it has to be the right one. The way I choose those is due to several elements; is it funny, is it do-able with my skill level, do I feel a connection to the characters in one way or another etc. I guess I just haven't found one yet that truly sings to me. But my next project is a giant Michael tribute with will take months. I can't wait!
Do you like when people don't know who you are representing?
I am still trying to decide that. I usually see an extra laugh or a smile once people read the titles and see who I am attempting to be, so if it adds an extra layer of "funny" to the piece, that's pretty great. I also like that I am usually so far from what the character looks like that it becomes why the piece is good, so I guess, yes, I do want people to know. It might mean I need to try harder!
Why do you never use photoshop?
I feel like it makes it into this weird challenge that makes creating the work more fun. Someone once reviewed the work and said "Warren really knows where to let the seams show" when they pointed out that a "nude" model was wearing nude-colored control top Hanes undies. I thought that was great. I don't think photo-shop is "cheating" or anything, I just think that the challenge to not use it is fun for me as well as the viewer.
What do you think the "garbage" of the internet tells us about ourselves? Why are we drawn to such weird stuff?
That one is such a complex and uncomfortable question because at this point it is so out of control I don't even want to go there! I try to stick with the innocent stuff, which is getting hard these days because there seems like there is more and more anger and hatred on the web every day. But if you search hard you can find such wonderful, subtle things, as well as some gross, odd, and confusing things. For me it's just about finding the right combination to make it all fun and easy to digest. I am really drawn to so many weird one-liners and memes and GIFs these days. I love seeing that the weird thoughts in my head and crappy jokes I don't say out loud are being drummed up by other mystery people around the world.
What is your dream project?
Well, I talked about my Michael tribute, I have been reading my Michael books non-stop, but a dream project one day is to really work with these celebs and make art that is as weird and engaging as some of the best reality TV out there. I don't quite yet have the words for exactly what I will do, but I know it needs to be as special and inspiring as the relationship between Flavor Flav and Brigette Nielson in Strange Love. I am so obsessed with them it floors me.
Self-portrait as Chicken Tikka Masalvador Dali by food'lebrities (Celebrities as Food Series), 2014
If you could be cast into any TV show on or in the past, what would you want to be on?
Though I am obsessed with Roseanne and want Dan and Roseanne to be my parents, I know I would not cope with their financial hardships. I guess I would rather be DJ on Full House, or Laura from Family Matters so I could hang with Steve Urkel. Or I wish I was Mark Summers, host of Double Dare. Or I truly want to date Flavor Flav. But only when he is really nice to the ladies, as he can be very rude sometimes. But I love him. I also kind of want to be besties with Kate Gosselin. The Fresh Prince was also amazing.
If you could have a little dream concert just for you, who would open and who would headline?
It would be the entire cast of the original We are the World, of course. Nothing could be better.
Have you ever gotten to meet one of your celebrity idols?
I actually did meet Flavor Flav, or rather I sat close to him in a very impressive restaurant in Las Vegas once. It was during the 3rd Season of Flavor of Love and I could see he did not end up with one of the girls on the show, and I was sad. He was in an argument with a woman and they left, leaving their half-eaten dinners behind. I proudly ate one of his chicken tenders.
That's What Friends Are For runs until May 4th 2014.
Text Kathy Grayson
Artwork Jaimie Warren