Throughout her career as an artist, Spoon Popkin has intermittently worked with what she terms “found photos,” notably her painting series “guyswithiphones” (aqueous male shapes based on selfies from the infamous Guys with iPhones website) and “Wet Dreams” (interpretive pelvic views of women featured in a 1974 Penthouse magazine).
With 2016’s “Crackers,” Popkin, 48, returned to a found-photo subject she’s fondly explored in the past: high school yearbook images. Specifically, Poly’s 1986 and 1987 yearbooks (the oddly named Cracker), which came into her possession after being left behind at an auction. Her resulting black-and-white portraits—12-by-12-inch oils on canvas arrayed in a grid without identifying names—“started with a faithful reproduction,” Popkin explains, “and then I did a painting from that painting and so on until I had up to four generations of paintings distanced from the original photograph. It was freeing to be released from the mislaid obligation to faithfully represent the subject.”
A 1990 MICA grad, Popkin has recently devoted the bulk of her energies to two commercial art projects: Damn Good Doormats and Popkin’s Pet Portraits. But the Poly yearbooks catapulted her back to a fine-art mindset: “I find the egalitarian aspect of the yearbook format liberating. Every person gets exactly equal treatment: race, religion, gender, nationality, popularity—none of these factors change the simple black-and-white pic that is your final representation. I especially love that these yearbooks seem to be incredibly diverse, with a Sikh student’s joora top knot, girls with huge Farrah flips and guys with amazing, carved MC Hammer hair. It showcases the best side of Baltimore’s multicultural population.”
> See more of Spoon Popkin’s work at spoonpopkin.com.