Lucky, Yes, But Hard-Working, Too

Ingrid V. Wells paints 30 oils in 30 days.

San Francisco artist Ingrid V. Wells painted her master’s thesis on Alana Thompson, better known by her stage moniker Honey Boo-Boo. The large — 96×64 inch — images she created for Honey Boo Boo’s Amurrican Starquest while wrapping up her studies at the San Francisco Art Institute evoke a sort of bubblegum-gothic vibe of American grotesquerie, with a little bit of childlike fantasy thrown in, but without condescension or body-shaming.

One painting, a diptych, includes Honey Boo-Boo riding a unicorn-pig and “another of her dressed up as a cowboy doll riding a neon pink balloon dog a la Jeff Koons, with a Hello Kitty hat on,” Wells says. “The more ridiculous and spectacular the better. I think if you can create more entertaining paintings, especially in a time when we’re all obsessed with our screens, that kind of creates a more interesting discussion, in comparison between painting and video.”

Now, in a burst of creative energy reminiscent of National Novel-Writing Month, Wells has redirected her ambitions toward a project that is simultaneously bigger and smaller. Lucky Paintings involves producing one oil every day for the month of September, a high level of output but one attached to smaller canvasses, or “treasured works,” as Wells puts it.

“They’re sort of a good luck charm,” she adds.

By day the assistant registrar at the California College of the Arts, Wells embarked on this project to show what the daily life of a working artist is like.

Who Farted? (Ingrid V. Wells)
Who Farted? (Ingrid V. Wells)

“Especially here in the Bay Area, there’s so many creatives and creative entrepreneurs that are pursuing creative works in all kind of different job structures, so there’s a part that isn’t visible — not only to the other people who are in that situation, but to those that aren’t.”

She’s also, she admits, trying to “up my Instagram game.” For the most part, the images are drawn from pop culture and current events — Honey Boo Boo reappeared over the weekend, but there are several paintings of Hillary Clinton. They aren’t satirical or even critical, and some make use of angles and — especially in last week’s Sparkle Nene, about the Real Housewife — levels of intimacy that bear a whiff of a resemblance to Roy Liechtenstein’s Pop Art women. Saturday’s painting, Thrilled, is an 8×8 close-up of a sad teddy bear with a drawn mouth and reflective eyes that might be about to gush tears.

“It’s different being a woman painting women,” says Wells, who was a member of the Whimsical Sister Group project, along with Emily Mayless, Li Ma, and Momo Yao at Diego Rivera Gallery in 2013. “It brings a different perspective, I think.”

Ultimately, she wants the paintings to be relatable, and to return the conversation “to the modern role of women and discussions about displays of wealth, and class.”

To that end, we know what Honey Boo Boo is thinking in Who Farted?. But is Nene, in Sparkle Nene, horrified at a déclassé gift someone gave her, or is she peering into the void and contemplating her fate?

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