BY MICHAEL STAHL
LOS ANGELES | In what has become a shining yearly tradition come Academy Awards week, the subversive Los Angeles street artist known as Plastic Jesus unveiled a new life-size Oscar statue this past February, with a Kanye West head, striking a Jesus pose on Hollywood Boulevard.
California artist Plastic Jesus on his latest subversive protest piece: “When celebrities show a human side, we crucify them.”
“There are a few celebrities we have made into god-like figures,” Plastic Jesus told Rolling Stone in a conversation about his latest project. “The domain in society and culture that they fill is far greater than their output. I think that’s happened to Kanye.”
Arms akimbo with nails through its palms, the gold-painted, muscular body made of a molded acrylic resin sports a Jesus-faced medallion on a chain around its neck. The statue’s lower midsection is covered in a loincloth, while the tippy-toed feet boast a pair of Yeezy brand shoes – that’s Kanye’s line.
The expressionless Kanye head was molded by the Las Vegas-based horror artist Ginger, perhaps most famous for crafting the five nude Donald Trump statues that popped up in various U.S. cities last summer, part of a collaboration with the street-art collective Indecline. Atop the crafted Kanye is a crown of thorns that Plastic Jesus says he purchased “from the Holy Land” on eBay for $8.
Standing slightly over seven feet tall, including the platform with a sign reading “False Idol” in old English font, the art piece is the fourth installment in a series produced by the Polystyrene Prophet. Three years ago, shortly after the overdose death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, Plastic Jesus erected an Oscar statue on Hollywood Boulevard with a tied-off left arm, injecting itself with drugs through a syringe. Then came the cocaine-sniffing Oscar statue on all fours in 2015, followed up by last year’s lady Oscar, in clear heels and pasties, gripping a stripper pole.
With these public art pieces, Plastic Jesus says he’s trying to call attention to “the dark underbelly” of the entertainment industry. “We hear about celebrities going to rehab for the first or the 20th time, and they get their treatment,” Plastic Jesus says. “But there are others who can’t afford that. Let’s not forget about the lighting technicians that have cocaine habits or the makeup artists who are alcoholics or the writers who sit in dark rooms feeling depressed for days on end.”