I spoke with artist Julia Vickerman as she worked on hanging the latest exhibition she's curating, a tribute to "Twilght" star Kristen Stewart, "Muchos KStew."
Fans in the comments section on a recent KPCC piece on the exhibit (132 comments and 158 tweets later as of press time) were upset about the piece for mentioning some critiques of Stewart, as well as at the exhibit itself for what they felt was a mean-spiritedness, but Vickerman says it's all being done in love, as she's a genuine fan.
"I would like to say that I've been a fan of her since the beginning," Vickerman said, "but it started out, me and my friends went to see 'Twilight' to make fun of it, and then I ended up really thoroughly enjoying it."
The highlight for Vickerman was Kristen Stewart. "I thought she had a really unique and kind of awkward and uncomfortable presence, and I just really liked her mouth and her eyebrows, and I just couldn't stop thinking about her face after I saw that movie. It just kind of led to me drawing a bunch of weird fan art, which then took a weird turn to drawing different aspects of persona."
Vickerman said she kept being invited to participate in group art shows, but only one subject came to mind. "The only thing that I found myself wanting to draw was Kristen Stewart for each group show."
In the comments section on that other piece, "A couple people were throwing around the words 'misogyny' and 'bullying,' and that's just so far from the realm of reality. I'm a successful young lady paying tribute to another successful young lady," Vickerman said. "There's nothing misogynistic about it at all. It's just a complete celebration of another human being who I find to be very interesting and I'm passionate about her for whatever reason."
As far as whether the art is making fun of Stewart at all, Vickerman said, "If there are any pieces with a cynical tone to them, if anything, I think Kristen Stewart has shown herself to be a public figure who has a sense of humor. And she seems like a very intelligent girl, and I can't imagine she would read too far into this."
Vickerman's brought in a wide range of artists, including one of my personal favorites, comic book artist Phil Noto.
"I am a huge Phil Noto fan, and I had posters of his artwork hanging in my room in high school in college, and then I met him at Comic-Con through some mutual friends," Vickerman said. "I totally geeked out on him, and I think he appreciated it. Then we started following each other on Twitter, and then maybe a couple months later, I almost jokingly asked I'm if he would like to be part of the show, and he was like, yeah, sure, I would love to do that! And I was like, holy s---! And then he ended up doing this beautiful portrait of her." Vickerman added that Noto was a big influence on her own work, particularly the way she draws women. "To have a figure that I admire so much be drawing this subject matter that I'm so excited and passionate about is a dream come true."
Some fans seemed to be offended by the use of nudity in the show. "That's just not... I can't even comment on that, because that's just so outside of the realm... I can't imagine being offended by nudity," Vickerman said. "Potato, po-tah-to, clothes, naked, who gives a s---?"
How did this show come about? One of Vickerman's friends had joked she should just curate an entire show dedicated to Stewart, but she didn't think many would be interested. "I didn't know if I was alone in my creepy obsession." But other artists told her they'd love to do a piece for show like that. "Before I knew it, I had 50 artists being involved and wanting to draw Kristen Stewart in a unique way."
"My infatuation with her is mainly based on this kind of mysterious persona of her that I've created in my own head, because I don't really keep up with celebrity culture that much," Vickerman said. "I just think she has a really great face and, in my head, she is an extremely enigmatic figure, and it's just kind of funny to visually come up with circumstances that Kristen Stewart might find herself in."
"I mean, I'll put Kristen Stewart's head on any kind of body," Vickerman said. "Male or female, animal or human, child or adult, and it all kind of just works in my head for some reason."
Vickerman says that Stewart hasn't had a long career, but as someone relatively fresh on the scene, "it's a little more fun to play around with the possibility of what type of person she is, not knowing that much about her."
While Kristen Stewart takes up much of her brain space, Vickerman also works in animation, notably serving as an animator on popular kids show "Yo Gabba Gabba." She curated an exhibit based around that show last year. "That went well, so hopefully this will go as well as that," Vickerman said. "I have to say this exhibit isn't as child friendly, obviously. A little bit more nudity in this show than there was in the Gabba show." Although... "I guess when you think about it, the yard completely naked, so maybe there was way more nudity in the Gabba show."
Vickerman hopes that Stewart will see this labor of love online and get a kick out of it, "because, I mean, who the f--- wouldn't?" Vickerman said. "I have a feeling if Kristen were to see all this artwork, I can't imagine her being bummed out. If anything, it's just incredibly strange and flattering."
The exhibit's opening reception is Saturday, April 7 from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Meltdown Gallery inside Meltdown Comics. You can see Julia give a tour through some of the art here and you should also follow her on her Tumblr.