Jason Mecier’s ‘Celebrity Trash’ a pop culture bonanza

San Francisco artist Jason Mecier makes portraits of celebrities — using the celebrities’ own trash.

“Celebrity Trash,” in fact, is the name of his show, opening next week at Minna Gallery in The City; a reception is slated for 5 p.m. to “late” on May 6.

Tubes of Lanacane are prominent in the image of comedian Phyllis Diller (in her hair) in a piece he shows during a recent tour of his one-room studio at his home in The Mission.

Diller was the first famous person to give him her castoffs, says Mecier, whose studio is packed wall-to-wall with boxes (one is marked “Karen Black”) and shelves bursting with trinkets.

“I don’t know why I’m so proud of my toothbrush drawer,” he says, pointing to a plastic bin at the room’s perimeter.

Though he starts each piece with stuff from celebrities – laying everything out and sorting by size and color – he’ll supplement with other items from his vast collection.

Often using plastic utensils, pencils, makeup, condoms and matchbooks, he acquires materials not just by “stalking” celebrities, but by taking random things he’s given: “Whatever I get, I’m happy with,” he says.

He points to a recent portrait of funk master Bootsy Collins, which has the musician’s jewelry (“real turquoise”) and old records – 45s.
“I kinda drank the Kool-Aid on this one,” he says, mentioning that he listened to Collins’ music on a loop while creating the piece.

It takes as many as 50 hours to make a portrait, says Mecier, whose subjects have included Lindsay Lohan, Amy Schumer, Amy Sedaris (she sent stuff used in her book “Crafts for Poor People”), and Florence Henderson, whose work featured Wesson oil bottles.

Margaret Cho, Elvira, Parker Posey and Rosie O’Donnell are others he counts as supporters.

A portrait of Pamela Anderson (“I redid her boobs, like, seven times,” he says), began with his own collection of “Baywatch” items and the addition of miscellaneous items a friend picked up for him at Anderson’s yard sale.

Sometimes, he says, celebrities think they should get his portraits for free, but he cannot afford to give them away.

Self-taught, Mecier grew up in Grass Valley, encouraged by his grandmother, who was an artist.

He made his first portraits with macaroni — “while watching ‘Charlie’s Angels’ just sitting with a TV tray,” he says – but found the color palette “too limiting.”

Also working in brightly-hued candy (Skittles keeps him in generous supply), Mecier has a permanent show “Candylebrity” at Sweet Hollywood, a Los Angeles candy store. Last year, an exhibit in The City had Magic Mike made of Mike and Ikes and other “hot guys” including Joe Manganiello and Nick Jonas.

Mecier, who doesn’t have representation (“Galleries don’t like me; I think I’m considered lowbrow, for some reason,” he says) has a basic goal “just to make more money.”

He says, “I have to make a living. I can’t be a 50-year-old man with a glue gun.”


Celebrity Trash
Where: Minna Gallery, 111 Minna St., S.F.
When: 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily May 2 through May 28
Admission: Free
Contact: www.111minnagallery.com
Note: An opening reception begins at 5 p.m. May 6

Picture 1 of 8

Jason Mecier, San Francisco-based artist makes large mosaics of US celebrities faces using their personal trash. The mosaic of Phyllis Diller sits in his home studio Thursday, April 21, 2016. (Emma Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Leslie Katz

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