The term Americana refers, quite simply, to cultural artifacts related to the history of the United States. However, as American historian Hampton Sides wrote in Americana: Dispatches from the New Frontier, “the United States is such a glorious mess of contradiction, such a crazy quilt of competing themes, such a fecund mishmash of people and ideas, that defining us is pretty much pointless”. What does and does not fit within the category of Americana is almost impossible to define. Coca Cola, Levis jeans, apple pie and baseball all come to mind. But these are relics of only one cultural milieu of this vast country.
This July 4, we take a look at some of the artists whose work offers some guidance on what contemporary Americana could be. They are both locals and foreigners with internal and external perspective. From Aaron Blum’s intimate photographs of Midwestern rural society to Marly Mcfly’s visual exploration of marginalization within pop-art, these artists are here to push the envelop of Americana.
A former marketing director for prominent ad agencies and fashion labels, Brian Nash eventually became eager to pursue more creative passions – first diving into country music in Nashville before finally finding his true place in visual arts. His popular and pop culture-inspired paintings boast inventive takes on placement, proportion and perspective.
As a child, Marly Mcfly began to pursue art by drawing from cartoons, comics and action figures. Influenced by the works of Roy Lichtenstein, KAWS and Hebru Brantley, he now draws inspiration from old comic books and newspapers as a way to explore his inner thoughts and experiences. Recurring themes in his work include female empowerment, equality, love and the importance of minority representation in comics and cartoons.
Aaron Blum began doing photography to share an honest portrayal of his region. Blum is a storyteller. He recounts visual narratives, without ever giving away too much information, leaving his viewer wanting to learn more. His photographs serve to unskew some of the stereotypes associated with his home, whilst at the same time, realize that some, at least, are rooted in a degree of truth.
Reinterpreting, subverting and playing with the iconography of popular media, Benjamin Perrin composes acrylic works that balance refinement and absurdity, thought and creative instinct, control and chaos. He employs a variety of materials and techniques to achieve his distinctive aesthetic, including paint, collage, stencils and objects.
Jean-François Vautrin’s paintings are hyper-realistic, rigorous and very colorful, similar to the style of Pop Art. Most of his pictorial work is set in an urban environment. His paintings transport the viewer to the America of yesterday: 1950’s cafes, vintage comic book illustrations, and classic cars dominate-objects and aesthetics of a by-gone era.