Ceramic artist Brett Kern is best known for making inflatable dinosaurs out of clay. That’s arguably enough of a “win” on its own, but his latest project, a series of pop-culture characters spoofing classic sculpture, is just too amazing to handle. We want them all.
The series is inspired by the Hellenistic period, one of Kern’s favorite slices of art history, which was marked by the death of Alexander The Great in 323 B.C. “I admire them because the sculptors of the time moved away from the romanticized god-like figures of the Classical Greek Period and started to make sculptures of everyday people, in sometimes inglorious situations, warts and all,” he says.
As a baby of the ’80s, Kern could think of no better subjects for his work than the pop-culture icons he was raised with. “I am choosing characters that I sympathize with in some capacity,” he says. “When I used to play Ninja Turtles, I pretended to be Rafael because he was the badass rebel that didn’t want to listen to anyone else. Fittingly, my older brother was Leonardo and we clashed often. For the mashup, I chose the Hellenistic sculpture, The Dying Gaul, which depicts a man dying in battle.”
Perhaps our favorite of the bunch (pictured above and in the gallery below) features a drunken E.T. passed out for the world to see, a recreation of the sculpture The Barberini Faun.
“It basically depicts a fantasy creature passed out on a rock. E.T. works perfectly for it,” explains Kern. “I love E.T. because he’s adorable… but it’s often forgotten that he walks into a wall and blacks out on the kitchen floor in the film. I love that this very obviously ‘adult’ situation exists in a children’s movie. For me it’s stand-in for how I’m trying to balance being a full-time college professor and adult, while still collecting and being obsessed with toys, movies and generally nerdy ‘childish’ things’.”
Each hilarious piece of wizardry can take Kern months to research, sculpt, and paint. “It all depends on how excited I am, how detailed the piece needs to be, and how much other work I have to do at the time,” he says. “I’m always working on multiple pieces to keep myself from getting bored with any one thing.”
Much to my dismay, the series will be shown for a year or two before I can get my grubby paws on it, but should you find yourself in West Virginia from September 30th – October 22nd, the first stop will be the Nutting Gallery at West Liberty University. For the rest of us, Kern regularly updates his Instagram and Facebook pages as new sculptures come to life.
“The studio space where I teach at Davis & Elkins College is always open for visitors if anyone is traveling through and wants to give me a heads up,” he adds. That’s one offer we’ll definitely be chasing up!
Check out more amazing images of Kern’s badassery in the gallery below. And if looking just isn’t enough, several of his older pieces, including a ceramic inflatable astronaut, can be purchased on Etsy.
IMAGES: Brett Kern, used with permission