One of the beauties of the internet is that it contains so many hidden mysteries. Not unlike a thrift store or junkyard, there are endless treasures buried underneath all of the worthless and fly-by-night bullshit. Through monitoring the traffic that each of our articles generate, I’ve discovered the randomness in both the timing and focus of the people that find and read the shit posted on here. An article that I post today may not get any more than 2 readers this week but, 3 months from now, there may be a sudden interest and that traffic will spike through the fucking roof. Today I have found one such hidden gem that, although it may have been buried for a few years, I hope to exhume this like Ed Gein constructing a living room set.
The image to the left is a piece of art created by a New York artist by the name of Steve DeFrank. It’s an older work of his, but I only just discovered it through the official website for the Smithsonian Institute‘s National Portrait Gallery. This piece was a finalist in the 2006 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition and was part of the subsequent, related exhibit held at the gallery. DeFrank‘s work did not “win” the competition, it is only one piece in a group with the work of other finalists’. It is, however, a piece that stands out amongst all of the various life-like and detailed works, for both it’s medium and it’s subject matter. The 5 foot tall portrait is titled, “Mom and Dad” and is a pointillism piece constructed entirely out of Hasbro Lite-Brite pegs.
The following is DeFrank‘s artist statement that went along with the piece:
“Parents can be the most embarrassing people on the planet when you’re ten. Just imagine how mortifying it would be if they were naked for the whole world to see? I did just that. It was sweet revenge for all the uncomfortable moments I had endured. Something happened while making the piece. I realized that I was the same age as my parents were in the picture. How would I do as a parent with nine children? I can barely take care of myself. I thought, hey, my parents are real people with flaws just like me. So they’re not superhuman after all. They’re real people with tan lines and bad hair. What started out as a smart-alecky work ended with a greater understanding of my parents. For all their flaws and imperfections I love them even more today.”
Here are the official specs of the piece via his finalist page:
Mom and Dad
New York City, New York
Hand-dyed Lite-Brite pegs in light box, 2005
60 in. (152.4 cm) height
Collection of the artist, courtesy Clementine Gallery
That’s right, he hand died all of the pegs himself to create the detail. The Lite-Brite medium was DeFrank‘s trademark for many years and, although he has chosen to move on and venture into new directions, his new work is as equally jarring as it is worth checking out.
Whenever I come across the work of an artist and decide to post something about it, I have a primary objective to help promote them by providing links to their portfolio’s and, if nothing else, a starting point for readers to continue with their exploration. Unfortunately, DeFrank doesn’t seem to have the greatest internet presence. I did, however, locate an interview that was conducted last year by Art Cat.
I continued to search and actually tracked down a short documentary on Youtube with Steve DeFrank as the subject. It’s cut into 2 parts and follows DeFrank through his step-by-step process during his Lite-Brite period.
To link to the original source account for the documentary CLICK HERE
The following is the information included with the Youtube videos:
“Documentary on the artist Steve Defrank. This was my first attempt at making a documentary. At the time Steve was using Lite Brites as his artistic medium and that intrigued me. He had received a commission to do a portrait of Mr. Potatohead from Hasbro and I was able to tape him as he worked on this particular project. Aside from this piece being in the Hasbro Corporate Collection he also has had work shown at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC and at The New Museum in New York City. If you would like to find out more about Steve he is currently represented by Clementine Gallery in New York City. To learn about Jonathan Dobin go to http://www.measureformeasure.org.“