TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF, MICHAEL.
I grew up in Pacoima, CA in the eastern part of the San Fernando Valley. I’m a son of immigrants. The weird thing about growing up in that area is that you’re surrounded by gangs, but you go up the hill into Hollywood and you’re surrounded by celebrity culture. So you have this weird dichotomy of your friends’ dads getting arrested, but then you see starlets getting plastered on newscasts for being arrested for bad behavior. You never hear about the drive by shooting down the street on the local news. You grow up thinking your neighbor doesn’t matter or that certain lives aren’t newsworthy. I would get bused out of my neighborhood to go to magnet schools in more affluent areas. My parents wanted me to be a doctor. I had different plans.
WHEN DID YOU GET STARTED AS AN ARTIST?
I was a horrible kid growing up. I would take my box of crayons, hold a couple in one hand and just run around the house putting my mark on the white walls. I remember teachers always telling me I was good artistically. You never grow up thinking that you can make a living as an artist, so I always kept those dreams in my journal. I learned Photoshop because I was bored and wanted to create my own anime characters. No one around me made a living as an artist. It was beyond me that you could make a living and make your parents proud by doing anything artistic.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU AND YOUR WORK?
My environment and youth inspires a lot of my artwork. I was really into Basquiat and Warhol growing up. I would soak up anything that combined celebrity culture with street art. I go online and print out all the images I could find of their artwork and just paste their art in my journal. When I applied to Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, I wrote about Basquiat being one of my early inspirations.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON FREE SPEECH IN ARTWORK?
I think there’s this weird thing that happened after Shepherd Fairey was fined and sentenced for infringing on the copyright of the AP photographer to make his famous Obama “Hope” campaign poster. As a young artist you look up to people like Shepherd Fairey and believe that the world is your oyster and you can draw inspiration from any source. You don’t want to see your artistic idols to get slammed for their expression. With social sites like Tumblr and Reddit you’d like to feel like there is still an outlet for you to fuck around and create content that won’t land you in jail. Even though the images I used for the Mugshot project are actual mugshots of celebrities and mugshots from 1920’s criminals from Australia, you wonder if you’ve changed the image enough to be considered Free Speech and if they fall under the protection of parody. There are connections that you want to be made when you make a piece. You hope that we still live in a country that allows for artistic expression.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON CELEBRITY BAD BEHAVIOR?
Like my Cholafied project, I feel that we place celebrities on a pedestal so that we can knock them down to see if they can get back up again. We jump them into this gang of celebrity culture, beat them up, and initiate them into our gang of the absurd. We make celebrities out of actors/actresses who exhibit bad behavior. It’s amazing to me when a celebrity hasn’t been exposed for doing something bad. I guess some celebrities have better PR teams than others. If a spotlight were on my every move I’m not sure I would have the strength to publicly get my act together.
HOW DID YOU FIND FAMOUSLY WRECKED, AND WHY GET INVOLVED?
I was contacted by the owner of Famously Wrecked (f.k.a. “Mugboards") about their mugshot series and felt that it fit right in with my Mugshot project. I love when creative people can collaborate. There is no better way to reach a wider audience than when you work with other people. Again, my work is inspired by my childhood and when you have an opportunity to show the world that artists are out there making stuff you have an opportunity to inspire. That’s just good karma.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR WORK BENEFITING BEHAVIORAL REFORM CHARITIES?
My wife is a special education elementary teacher. I have an uncle who lives in LA shelters. There is a history of mental illness in my family and in many families out there. With so many of our prisons being filled to capacity, I feel like a lot of people who are arrested are mentally ill and need to be treated instead of incarcerated. Any positive change towards getting people the help they need in a way that is creative is a positive in my book.
DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVORITE CELEBRITY BAD BEHAVIOR MOMENTS? OR A FAVORITE CELEBRITY MUGSHOT?
I’m a little biased, but Charlie Sheen reached out to me to get a copy of his Mugshot Doppelgänger from me. There’s a hustle in that guy that you can’t fault. He turned his tiger blood episode into a comedy tour. Sure, it probably wasn’t executed as successfully as it could have been, but I can’t fault his hustle.
DO YOU HAVE ANY PROJECTS OR SHOWCASES COMING UP FOR YOU? CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THEM?
I’m always jotting down ideas and always looking to collaborate with other artists. I created my Cholafied project two years ago and it’s still getting pickup from different sites. It’s awesome when you can put something out in the world and it can get a sustained level of positive feedback. It feels validating.
IF SOMEONE WANTED TO CONTACT YOU ABOUT YOUR WORK, WHAT’S THE BEST WAY? HAVE A WEBSITE?
www.mistermichaeljason.com I’m an art director in advertising. I want to be able to take the large audience that advertising has access to and creating ways to communicate to the masses in this world of YouTube, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, etc.
FINAL THOUGHTS …
If you think that your viewpoint won’t be relatable, that your interests aren’t entertaining or worthy for mass consumption, silence your mind and just do it. Surround yourself with people who believe in you.
Don’t let fear drive you, listen to your gut and KILL IT!