Picture Kanye West and Aziz Ansari. Picture them in their natural states, Kanye sporting shades and Aziz in the midst of a manic episode.
Now picture them as cats. Best friend cats.
Weird? Perhaps. But weirdness is Jessie Bowie's business. This Miami-born artist paints intriguingly bizarre celebrity-animal mash-ups and sells them to eager buyers via Etsy. The bizarrely adorable paintings have achieved a level of Internet fame recently, with features on blogs like BuzzFeed.
Bowie can wield a needle, too, and also creates stuffed monsters out of old clothes. These include gems like the "Banana Man Monster in Easter Outfit" and "Green Alien in Tropical Shorts".
Born in Miami, Bowie grew up in Pembroke Pines, then moved to Sarasota where she honed her painting skills at the Ringling College of Art. Now she sells her unique creations to offbeat art appreciators worldwide.
We spoke to her about anthropomorphism, other people's weirdness, and some David Bowie and Prince spooning action.
Cultist: Your name. Any relation to David?
Jessie Bowie: Haha, I wish!
Your creations are unique, to say the least. What inspired you to start putting celeb heads on animal bodies? And to create banana monsters and other such cuddly creatures?
I mean, anthropomorphism has been around forever but my reason for mixing heads and bodies is basically my need to be silly. I have a hard time just painting a full nude of Brad Pitt or whatever. I gotta throw in an element of surprise to keep myself entertained. I really enjoy sewing, but I'm definitely not a pro. So sewing bananas and narwhals is great practice and have made really excellent gifts. Sometimes I just have a sweater I want to get rid of and I think, Jeez, that would make a great hot dog. That's how a lot of my creations get started.
Who are your fave celebs?
Man, I love all the celebs. From Alien -- is the alien a celeb? -- to Lil Wayne to ... John Wayne. They can all be painted as silly or terrifying as I like, and that's what a I'm looking for in a celebrity right now. The celebs I'd like to see the most in person are Prince and Tom Waits.
Do you draw any inspiration from living in Florida?
I wish I drew more inspiration from living in Florida, like painting sunsets and palm trees and fish. I'd probably be making a lot more money! I think what I'm doing now is pretty understandable to anyone regardless of being a Floridian. I feel inspired to paint inside because its so damned hot.
I understand you used to be a South Florida local. What's your favorite thing about our neck of the woods?
954! Haha, yeah. I moved to Sarasota after high school, and visit friends and family in South Florida occasionally. I used to love going to Churchill's every Monday for that open-mic night, and the art walk in Wynwood. I miss the Swap Shop and Cuban food. There's like one Cuban restaurant here, and it's pretty lame. Even though the beaches here are nice, I miss Hollywood beach the most. There's a place on the boardwalk with an excellent $1.25 pistachio soft serve. Haha, I sound like a 90-year-old lady who loves a good deal.
Don't kid yourself. We all love a good deal. Do you take requests? For example, Pit Bull's head on a liger's body?
I will try and paint anything. I think the weirdest request I got was a painting of David Bowie and Prince spooning on a daisy or some other flower. Or Tom Waits as a chimp holding an ice cream come with Jerry Garcia's head on it. Custom orders are my favorite to do. Then I get to really compare my weirdness to others, and surprisingly enough, I'm not the weird one.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Is this a full-time gig for you?
Unfortunately, this is not my full-time job, but my other jobs are pretty great, so I'm not upset about it. I think if this was my full-time job I might get burned out, which has happened a couple times. I need variety to stay interested.
Any big plans in the works for your art?
I'm pretty excited I found this awesome print shop in Sarasota, so hopefully I will be selling a lot more and having a lot more inventory on hand. I'm thinking about doing bigger paintings, maybe with full casts of TV shows or bands. I owe my sister a painting, so I guess that's my biggest plan right now.