Pop-tarts, popcorn and pop art: ‘Oxford Pop Art Show!’ is anything but ordinary

Posted on Oct 18 2017 - 7:59am by Jacqueline Knirnschild

Instead of having the typical cheese-and-crackers platter, Frame Up’s Basement Gallery treated guests to Pop-Tarts and popcorn last night at its “Pop Art Show!” — symbolizing the bizarre, yet intriguing, qualities of the paintings and mixed media pieces on display.

The “Pop Art Show!” included the works of three local artists — Ally Black, a recent Ole Miss graduate with a BFA in graphic design; Dylan Britt paints in his free time, and Jason Heavner, the co-director of the Oxford Maker’s Market and new manager of the Basement Gallery.

Heavner, better known as J-MAN, said this was his first art show as the manager of the gallery, so he wanted to create a real show, not just a hodgepodge of pop art. Pop art refers to art based on modern popular culture and the mass media, which was popularized in the U.S. by artists like Andy Warhol.

“With the gallery, what I’m primarily focusing on is bringing artists together that normally wouldn’t meet each other,” Heavner said.

Originally, Heavner wanted the show to concentrate mainly on street, graffiti and blues fusion artist Michael Carter, aka M.I.C. Harder 9000, but after a last-minute change of plans, Heavner asked his Maker’s Market friend Britt to jump in. 

Britt said Heavner messaged him the morning of the show to let him know some space opened up for his pieces, so Britt went home and grabbed a bunch of his works to put on display.

Britt started doing art about four years ago when he was looking at a painting on the wall at his dad’s house.

“I told my stepmom, ‘Man, I wish I could do something like that,’” Britt said. “And she was like, ‘Why can’t you?’”

From that moment, Britt began splatter painting and experimenting with different methods of throwing paint on the canvas. In the past few years, throwing paint on canvas evolved into Britt drawing what came to his mind and then painting over the drawing.

These drawings culminated in Britt’s collection of “self-portraits in an alternate reality,” which includes numerous psychedelic depictions of things like aliens, Mickey Mouse, a cupcake and a tooth.

“If I was an alien or a different person in a different place, time and space, this would probably be me,” Britt said. “The typical alien has big eyes and oblong head, so I guess I was thinking how I could expand on the whole alien idea — so I started thinking of different people and personalities.”

One of Britt’s favorite pieces is “Root Canal,” which depicts a frowning tooth, reflecting his not-so-cheery dental experience.

Artist Dylan Britt holds up one of his favorite pieces, “Root Canal.” Photo By Taylar Teel

“Last year, I had this freakin’ root canal, and it was this six-month process of going back and forth to the dentist,” Britt said.

At one point, Britt said he considered taking the advice of another local artist, who told him that in order to make money as an artist, he needed to incorporate the silhouette of Mississippi into his work, but Heavner quickly shut down that idea.

“He was like, ‘You can do this. You can make it work. Do what makes you happy,’” Britt said. “That conversation is what got me started. I’m not going to do a simple Mississippi pillow. I’m going to keep it true to myself.”

While Britt illustrates an eclectic mix of alien personas, Black focuses on the overall uniqueness within the art community in her three “Tribute” collages, which utilize color theory and mixed media to pay homage to Oxford artists.

The collages include discovered objects such as news and magazine clippings, stuff procured from junk piles and photos of Black’s local artist friends who inspire her.

“I hope that no matter who you are, you’ll look at it and see something you like,” Black said. “I didn’t want it to be just a jumbled mess but, rather, more united.”

Black, who actually began college as an engineering major, was inspired by German Dada artist Hannah Hoch to experiment not only with different media forms but also with blending colors to produce certain feelings.  

Black decided to put the collages into large circular forms to give herself a greater challenge — representing her overarching experimental and exploratory art technique.

In addition to the “Tribute” collages, Black also displayed a diptych of herself and her fiancé and a few small mixed media pieces that highlight the individuality of a few of her closest friends.

In comparison, Heavner’s work is a mixture of pop and folk art and includes depictions of Johnny Cash and Elvis.

Junior history major Nat Huseby said she found out about “Pop Art Show!” because someone shared it in the UM Pride Network’s GroupMe.

“The show and the venue are both really interesting, creative and unique,” Huseby said. “A lot different (from) other shows.”

Huseby said Black’s circular “Tribute” collages particularly caught her eye.