After smearing his subjects with sugary coloured cream cheese and icing to explore the darker side of the fetishisation of sweets and junk food, artist James Ostrer’s latest portraits are an amalgamation of celebrity icons, who seduce their onlookers through traditional and social media with their promises of success, beauty and glamour. Ostrer describes these works as ‘honesty portraits’, an externalistion of the media data that he has consumed day-to-day.
Donald Trump may not be the presidential favourite to win the election, but he’s far and away the most-searched candidate on Google. Ostrer’s states, “The eyes of the world are on Trump which marked him out as my number one subject.” Ostrer’s effigy of Donald Trump comprises a honey blonde bouffant hairpiece, a real pig’s snout, actual sheep eyes, raw fish, crude oil, and rubble that has been gold leafed. Ostrer explains, “I am responding to the vast divide between what we are being sold and what we are actually getting.
I’ve labelled them ‘Emotional Downloads’, which stand as a reaction against corporately contrived icons, the myth bearers that we are increasingly forced to worship.” Among his subjects are those who Ostrer feels embodies John Updike’s dictum that celebrity is a mask that eats its own face, including Donald Trump, Tiger Woods, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. A number of celebrities feature in this series, including Harry Styles, Damian Hirst and Miley Cyrus.
Simultaneously celebrated and criticised, Ostrer feels that many stars today represent the embodiment of success and the ultimate construction of false value. Ostrer says, he created the artworks because he wanted to underpin his own and our collective obsessions with the glorification of celebrity and its dark and seedy underside. Each work is titled Emotional Download followed by the number of searches that the subject has reached (at the time that the exhibition will take place) according to Google Trends data.
Tiger Woods also features in Ostrer’s rogues’ gallery of myth bearers and false prophets. His portrait is a face of stitched together, raw animal flesh, his features a series of emblems borrowed from his various contracted endorsements. One of Wood’s eyes is a Nike golf ball set within a latex vagina, the other, a Rolex watch.
Prior to his infidelity scandal, Woods made around 90 million dollars a year in endorsements. Ostrer explains his reason for including him was prompted by a billboard featuring Woods smiling down on him wearing a Rolex watch. He says, “I was irritated with myself for being seduced, even momentarily, into believing that buying a watch I can’t afford would make me feel happier. Especially by a smiling celebrity golfer who was pretending to be happy when in fact had only recently wrecked his family and work life through a pharmaceutical and sex addiction.”