Jaimie Warren is a visiting artist from Brooklyn who is doing a one month residency at Artspace as part of their PNC Pop-In Residency program.
I turn the corner into Jaimie Warren’s studio in Artspace, and the first thing I see is a table crowded with paint buckets, their lids on but not secure. A handful of brushes are soaking in milky pastel water, others are dried to pieces of paper. Still others are scattered across the table, the paint on their ends long dry.
Turning to the facing table, a fuzzy purple monster stares back, yellow teeth and ribcage exposed. Glue guns and newspapers, cans of spray paint, chunks of (hopefully fake) hair and sequins cover almost every surface. I take a seat and start looking at one of many poster-sized pieces of paper on the wall, detailing the project that I’m assuming is taking form across the hall.
Suddenly, Warren comes running through the door, her curly dark brown ponytail perched on the very top of her head, spilling down either side of her smiling face. She wears a paint covered apron, neon running shoes and some seriously ’80s gold hoops. Her energy bounces around the room.
“Actually, not really,” she responds, when I ask if she has always considered herself an artist. “I was the person getting people together for a giant game of capture the flag. The Organizer of Events. I’ve always loved getting people together to do weird stuff and have an experience.”
In 2013 she got her first studio in Kansas City and started the transition from organizer to artist.
“I was doing these self-portraits with funny costumes that I would make, and when I got the studio, it turned into set-based work,” Warren explains. “I would find these absurd photoshopped images and make the costumes and everything to recreate them. It was very DIY, very ‘make-your-own-Halloween-costume.’”
“Whoop Dee Doo,” the public access television show Warren co-created and co-produces, helped her move out from behind the scenes and towards working with her hands to create sets and costumes. She was recently selected as a featured artist in ART21’s documentary series “New York Close Up,” which will focus on “Whoop Dee Doo” and premiere Friday, May 29 on PBS.
The show also inspired her new body of work, pieces and parts of which cover the tables and floor we are sitting on. During her residency at Artspace, Warren created another large scale multimedia piece, and it’s something that only she could have dreamed up.
“It’s a recreation of a Botticelli painting, which is going to turn into the set for a music video for Stevie Wonder’s ‘I Just Called to Say I Loved You,’” she says, as if that’s the most normal thing in the world. She giggles at the look on my face, and continues.
“We’re going to start by recreating the Botticelli, but then it gets haunted,” she motions to the purple monster behind her. “There’s going to be, like, gremlins and monsters. Then the monsters are going to turn into celebrities.”
I turn to see a giant piece of paper hanging on the wall, listing Stevie Wonder, The Pointer Sisters and Kate Gosselin. Photos are going to be taken during each stage, and presented along with the music video during First Friday at Artspace on June 5.
“We make everything, the gremlin puppets, all the wigs. I had some volunteers in today, and one was working on a fake Ed Hardy t-shirt,” Warren laughs again. “I usually come up with the base idea, but it always grows and evolves organically with the help of the kids or people involved. It slowly changes throughout the process.”
So much outside involvement, especially among younger volunteers, has always been a part of Warren’s creative process. She’s been teaching since 2000, developing events, programs and classes designed for younger students. This summer, she will be teaching a group of high schoolers at the Museum of Modern Art, the course focusing on, in her words, “recreating ’80s B horror skits.”
“High school is where it’s at for me. I love working with all ages, but high school…” Warren trails off, eyes rolling up towards the ceiling as she collects her thoughts. “I love helping them feel ownership. And the way they just dive into a project! It’s just magical, and it just really clicks with my personal work.”
Looking around, I can see that. I can definitely see that.