Bill Humphries, a pop art inspired painter, works diligently in his studio atop Southern Exposure’s gallery space in Railroad Square. Creating effervescent works of quirk, he’s surrounded by canvases ranging in color and subject matter that serve as windows into a dimension constructed by Humphries’ creative eye.
Above Humphries’ workspace peeps a man in underwear and suspenders reaching off the canvas, his face mummified by gauze. Jutting from his hipbone is a pop-up window with a chocolate Nabisco cookie nestled inside, and from above, gears gnash another man’s arm as bubbleletters warn, YOUCH. Dazzling in safety-cone orange and fire-truck red, this piece is a bright, attractive, and nuanced example of how Humphries folds food and popular culture into his creations.
“There is some kind of narrative, especially in the collaged works,” states Humphries. “I’ll gravitate towards a strange image and juxtapose that with food, signage, and typography. I borrow from magazines and go on my own in terms of typography—that’s the perfect storm of what I do.”
Two similar pieces by Humphries, titled “CLOG” and “Bob and Betty Blauaugen Loved Their Meat,” are showcased in COCA’s latest exhibition, “Yum” at the City Hall Art Gallery. In tandem with America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend, opening reception attendees are encouraged to bring non-perishables to donate as they view artwork that celebrates food’s role in our everyday lives. Humphries is energized by this theme, as the
philosophy and intent behind his own creations continue conversations started by pop-era artists such as Andy Warhol and James Rosenquist who were often inspired by food and its packaging. “It’s the debris and detritus of the 20th century filtering through my eyes, brain, and hands,” describes Humphries. “In a way, I’m exploring the 21st century, and fine-tuning or discovering for myself what 20th-century artists discovered in their art. I’m influenced by German artists and movements, and how it comes out is chance and intuition.”
A graphic designer by trade, typography and clean lines are both prominent elements in Humphries’ artwork. He arrived in Tallahassee in 1974 and attended Florida State University for a degree in creative writing, but found that the imagery of text itself to be his main interest. Over the years, he’s cultivated skills in photography, painting, and mixed media art alongside his day job, and has shown work as part of the FSU Museum of Fine Arts Artists’ League, as well as in exhibits in Valdosta and Thomasville, Georgia.
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