‘I’m a Big Believer in Odd Characters’: Watch Artist Jaimie Warren Talk About Her Love for Freddie Mercury and Yoda

As part of a collaboration with Art21, hear news-making artists describe their inspirations in their own words.

Production still from the Art21
Production still from the Art21 "New York Close Up" film, "Jaimie Warren Is A Total Character." © Art21, Inc. 2015.

Jaimie Warren is the first to admit that she’s weird; it stems from a desire to do just about anything to keep herself entertained. For the Wisconsin-born artist, this means dressing up as bizarro versions of her favorite pop-culture characters and celebrities—from Freddie Mercury to Freddy Krueger, she’s done it all.

Warren’s first solo institutional show opens this week at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn, and it promises to be a multimedia spectacular. Titled “THE MIRACLE,” the exhibition is a delirious mash-up of influences, from campy horror films to high-school theater productions and puppetry. Things will culminate in April with a series of live performances.

Jaimie Warren, courtesy of Pioneer Works.

Jaimie Warren, courtesy of Pioneer Works.

In an exclusive interview with Art21, part of the “New York Close Up” series, Warren describes an early interest in costumes that ultimately blossomed into more elaborate productions. But she’s not simply playing dress-up. The artist uses these well-known figures to stage moving, oddly emotional moments. As she told Art21 back in 2015, “I’m a big believer in odd characters…I especially like the grosser or weirder the character,” she has said, citing Yoda, Boy George, and Phil Spector as some of her influences.

In the video, Jaimie recalls how important it was when she first saw Michael Jackson’s We Are the World music video, which featured a diverse array of musicians who were all brought together for a feel-good common purpose. (The ’80s aesthetic was an added bonus.)

Warren considers the wild cast of personas she adopts to be her friends, in a way, as well as a kind of raw material for her art. “Remaking something that is pre-existing—you already have so much to work with, and then it’s all about every little decision you’re making from that…they’ve all helped along my artistic spirit,” she says.

Watch the video, which originally appeared as part of Art21’s “New York Close Up” series, below. “Jaimie Warren: THE MIRACLE” is on view at Pioneer Works in Red Hook, Brooklyn from February 21–April 12, 2020. 

This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between Artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of newsmaking artists. A new series of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship series Art in the Twenty-First Century is available now on PBS. Catch all episodes of other series like New York Close Up and Extended Play and learn about the organization’s educational programs at Art21.org.


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