If you've ever spent a summer in New England, you know the deal: lobster in the bathtub, freezing cold ocean water, ice cream shops, and mini-golf. These are the happy thoughts that define your youth and that overshadow the memories of lactose intolerance, chapped skin, and a slow-moving, though lovely, game.
Artist Brian Butler and his then girlfriend, now wife, decided to play on all of Massachusetts' 84 miniature golf courses after seeing the orange dinosaur of Saugus vandalized. The fear of losing this nostalgic sport forever inspired the thought, "We need to play all of the miniature golf courses before they're gone."
While putting around, they noticed a reoccurring theme: ice cream people. This got them thinking, is there a subculture of people making anthropomorphic ice cream statues? Butler asked, how is this a "reoccurring theme in peoples' narratives?" Thus was born the Ice Cream People project. It asks, are these creatures real?
Under the guise of a crypto-zoologist, and in search of these elusive creatures, Butler created a website (icecreampeople.org), eliciting people to submit art work and other evidence of the beings' existence. Butler created a template of a cone and sent it to artists and children to fill in the blank scoop, which were then added to his "Gallery of Evidence." He hopes that one day, little children will be asking if ice cream people are real, adding to the Nessie, Bigfoot, and Skunk Ape mysteries. There were multiple "sightings" of these beings during Art Basel, cutouts made of cardboard, which lurked around gallery spaces, adding to the allure.
A very recent transplant to South Beach, Butler has designed tour merchandise for Jay-Z and Wu-Tang Clan, posters for Sweat Records, Roofless Records, and Coral Morphologic, and has shown at Gallery Diet. Though inspired by roadside Americana, the aesthetic of the ice cream people is more contemporary than South of the Border's mascot Pedro. Of this Butler noted, "Inherently, I think that you're influenced by everything around you. I've been super influenced by graffiti and that culture, and it's made its way into the project."
Graffiti sensibilities of drawing on walls remain also. Visitors to Kidrobot
(638 Collins ave, Miami Beach) will be encouraged to draw their own interpretations of the ice cream people on the walls of the store until Jan. 26. Your cone will stand proudly next to well-known artists like Shepard Fairey and MCA Evil Design. Makes you kind of hungry, doesn't it? Don't forget the Pepcid AC.