exhibition slideshow
Hello Masterpiece

Leslie Holt

Miniature Oil Paintings Juxtaposing
Historical Masterworks with Hello Kitty.

On View
May 10 - June 21, 2008

Saturday, May 10, 2008
7:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m.

Download the color catalog for this exhibit
Take the audio Tour of Hello Masterpiece

Leslie Holt creates a bizarre but delightful twist on art appreciation in her "Hello Masterpiece series of diminutive oil paintings. By juxtaposing the character, Hello Kitty, with quintessential images from art history, the artist creates a clash of iconography whose outcome is a clever intersection of pop culture and antiquity. Holt makes her canvases souvenir size, similar to postcards in a museum gift shop, transforming the masterworks into take home sized objects, while lampooning their high brow context as commodities in a consumer market.

In these paintings, Hello Kitty tours art history donning themed costumes to "match" elements of the famous paintings she visits. Kitty becomes a toy version of Cindy Sherman, capable of changing identities and transforming her appearance.

In other images from this series, Hello Kitty spotlights social or political issues, such as war, genocide, and gender identity. Kitty charms the viewer into looking, but her innocent, playful appeal contrasts with the serious adult subject matter. Although the work can display an unsettling intersection of childhood and adult worlds, Hello Kitty's "toyness" and her obvious overlay on the image disrupts any illusion that she actually belongs in the scene of the artwork. The resulting paintings become a discordance of high and low culture and a humorous commentary on the commodification of art. Shown here: Hello Botticelli, Hello Goya, Hello Guernica, Hello Marilyn, Hello Matisse, Hello Mondrian, Hello Picasso.

Dr. Ivy Cooper of Souther Illinois University Edwardsville observes, "It takes an artist with Leslie Holt's seasoned, cynical humor and formidable eye to layer such familiar references and make them say something new." (see all of Dr. Cooper's essay below.)

Sixty of Holt's miniature oil paintings will be on view at phd gallery May 10 - June 21, 2008 with an opening reception from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 10, 2008. phd gallery is located at 2300 Cherokee Street. Regular gallery hours are noon to 4:00 p.m., Thursday through Sunday. Call (314) 664-6644 for more information.

Hello Culture

Ivy Cooper, Ph.D.
Professor of Art History
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

For her solo exhibition at phd gallery, Hello Masterpiece, Leslie Holt painstakingly reproduces some of the world's best known paintings in postcard size. They're portable and affordable, like high quality souvenirs from a virtual Grand Tour through the history of art and the masters of the Western canon: van Gogh, Picasso, Leonardo, Grant Wood, etc. It's a witty move, a clever commentary on the commercialized status and unprecedented availability of high art today. And it might have ended there. But provocateur that she is, Holt insists on taking things a little further.

Cue Hello Kitty, who wanders into each of these paintings to play dress up, mimic characters, and generally wreak havoc with whatever seriousness these mini-masterpieces manage to maintain. For the Degas ballet scene, she wears her pink tutu. She tootles on a toy horn in honor of Picasso's musicians. And she's ready to go surfin' with Boticelli's Venus. In short, Hello Kitty gets to treat art history like her personal playground. And why not? As famous as these masterpieces are, they don't hold a candle to Hello Kitty, that marshmallow manga symbol of multinational corporate pop-cultural hegemony.

It takes an artist with Leslie Holt's seasoned, cynical humor and formidable eye to layer such familiar references and make them say something new. With Hello Masterpiece, she has perfectly replicated the conflation of high and mass culture that marks 21st century Capitalism. At the same time, each individual work in the series makes its own commentary on perennial issues ranging from love and beauty, to labor and fetishism. As far as art is concerned, Hello Masterpiece is the complete package. So while you may not like the current state of our culture, Leslie Holt's art makes it a little easier to bear.

Ivy Cooper, Ph.D.
Professor of Art History
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

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