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Re-imagining our icons with Kevin O’Quinn

When Kevin O’Quinn gets to work, he uses it as an opportunity to learn. He enjoys finding the uniqueness of his subject, that seemingly banal, small, or forgotten piece of information that can make us see them in a different way.

Image of Amercian actor Steve McQueen laid over a collage with red and blue stripes and stars. Text reading "Hot Wheels" in yellow on a red flame banner over the figure's torso.
Hot Wheels, Kevin O'Quinn, mixed media under resin, pop-art collage

And while he mostly works with cultural icons in music or film for his pop art, his upcoming April 2022 exhibit at Art @Bentall will focus on sports figures.

“I think that’ll be fun, because I can use the countries they’re from and all that kind of stuff to incorporate,” Kevin says. “Plus, I’m excited to learn. I’m going to do a Kobe Bryant piece, and I don’t really know a lot about Kobe Bryant. I’m not a huge basketball fan. But I know he’s from Philadelphia and grew up in Italy and all these other kinds of things. So even just on these two fronts, I can come up with some good stuff.”

At its surface, pop art seems to function as an ironic counterpoint to other supposedly more elitist art. It takes the mainstream of culture—whether that’s iconic figures, mass produced consumer goods, or other widely-known cultural artifacts—and highlights their position in our society.

The April show will feature a wide number of sports icons, male and female, from a wide range of sports including basketball, football, baseball, hockey, and golf. However, he also says he wants to have some fun with his audience as well.

“I’ve got a few surprises where people will say, ‘That’s not a sport!’ But it will be hilarious.”

What makes Kevin’s work truly pop out—no pun intended—is his use of resin. Resin enhances and protects the artwork, giving it a gloss finish.

It involves a precise process, one where measurements must be exact and the environment

must be pristine. Otherwise, the resin may not fully set and still be tacky or dust and other particles may get caught as it cures.

“I did a Madonna piece in the summer, and it cured the next day. And I looked at it, and it was lying flat. And it was all good. And then I had a professional photographer come over to take some photos. And as I put it on the wall, I’m looking, ‘What the hell is on her face?” And I looked, and I couldn’t figure out what it was. And the photographer who’s 15 years younger than me and [with] a better set of eyes, he looks, ‘Oh, that’s a mosquito.’ I was so mad.”

The band members of ABBA over a Swedish flag. The logo of furniture company IKEA is painted on the bottom third.
Swedish Touch, Kevin O'Quinn, 2019, mixed media under resin, pop-art collage

When this happens, the resin must be sanded away and reapplied, costing time and money.

“It’s not cheap,” Kevin says. “So you don’t want to screw up.”

This is not Kevin’s first show. He says having exhibited before helps calm the nerves so that he is able to enjoy it more.

“The first one, I had no idea what to expect,” he says. “And I had no idea how to plan for it or what I was doing or how to respond to the public because my art was so new, and it was like an open wound. So, I was worried about what people [would] think, what they liked and what they hated. Would they be indifferent? And now, [I’ve] kind of been around the block a few times. I just want to put out some new work that will really inspire me and inspire some other people I hope.”

Nothing makes him happier when someone buys his art and sends him a picture of it hanging in their home, business, or gallery.

“The people that love my stuff really love it. So, I’m lucky that way. So hopefully, the pieces that I come up with for this show, they’ll be just as happy.”

Kevin’s show runs through the month of April 2022 at Art @Bentall.

By Nathan Durec


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