Be The Brand: Candy Artist Makes Celebrity Portraits With Mike and Ikes, Hot Tamales

Channing Tatum, star of the movie “Magic Mike,” reincarnated in the form of Mike & Ike candies!  (By Jason Mecier)

Imagine what George Washington or Teddy Roosevelt must have felt like staring at themselves immortalized in stone at Mount Rushmore. We don’t know how they felt — because they and colleagues Abe Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson were long gone when the tribute was first commissioned in 1927.

But heartthrob actor Channing Tatum, voted People Magazine’s 2012 Sexiest Man Alive, is lucky.  He does get to stare at his own glorified image, but on a much more humble scale.

Tatum recently starred as a Chippendale-like dancer in the movie “Magic Mike,” a role just recreated out of 5000 Mike and Ike candies by San Francisco mosaic artist Jason Mecier. The artwork’s flavor breakdown is as follows:

  • Mike’s lips are Red Rageous.
  • Mike’s belly button is a Berry Blast.
  • Mike’s chest features Tangy Twisters.
  • Mike’s underwear and cuffs are Lemonade Blends.
  • The background consists of Original Fruits, Tropical Typhoon and Italian Ice.

Sometimes the appearance of a product out of the box is just as iconic as the brand logo or CPG packaging. Jason was tickled by the idea of making a famous Mike entirely out of Mikes (which candies are the Mikes and which are the Ikes, by the way?)

He previously made a splash by creating portraits of President Barack Obama and 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney out of Jack Link’s beef jerky. And his Good & Plenty pink-and-white tribute to Taylor Swift is absolutely gorgeous (scroll down below).

We recently caught up with Jason for a Q & A on what it was like to channel the Sexiest Man Alive through his sweet tooth.

Q: When was your first informal work of food art?  How did you get started?

JM:  Though I have no formal art training, I did have an excellent mentor in my grandmother, Anita Tollefson. When I was young, I remember being mesmerized by her paintings, weavings, mosaics, sculptures, collages, and stained glass work that filled my grandparents’ house and yard. If Grandma was working on an art project, she would set me up at a nearby table with a project of my own.

One of my earliest pieces is a mosaic made from beans, noodles, rocks, and cut bamboo sticks glued on a piece of wood. She encouraged me to create masterpieces using materials readily available to me. She would rather paint on the back of her cigarette cartons than buy a canvas. I learned from her that I can make art out of anything I want to, and that there are no rules.

Q: When was your first “serious” piece of food art?

JM: About 20 years ago, I wanted to take macaroni art to a new level and made over 200 bean and noodle portraits, mostly 1970s TV icons like “Charlie’s Angels,” “The Dukes of Hazzard” and “Mary Tyler Moore.” I started to feel limited by the earthtone palette so I started working with bright-colored candy. Then, I just started using anything and everything in my mosaics. Now I try to match the medium with the subject. Like Snoop Dogg out of Marijuana, Amy Winehouse out of pills, and Kevin Bacon made out of bacon.

My very first food art piece was Drew Barrymore (from the movie Firestarter) made out of chicken and egg dishes. It was for my friend’s zine cover. Chicken nuggets mixed with chow mein, scrambled eggs, lunchmeat and soup. It was messy and gross, but a fun learning experience.

Q:  Why do you like working with food as a medium?  

JM: I only like working with things that can be glued down and shellacked, like candy and beef jerky.

I HATE working with things that just need to be assembled, photographed, and thrown away immediately, like fruits, vegetables, meats, etc. The food is wilting or rotting before your eyes, you have to work flat, ants start parading by, and if you bump the table the whole thing would shift. I also don’t get the final time to reflect and make changes at the end.

Jason Mecier, glue gun in hand, in the final stages of filling in the last few “Mikes.”

Q: Do you spray your art with any preservatives when you’re done?

JM: I use Krylon Triple-Thick clear coat, a super high-gloss spray paint.

Q: What gave you the idea to use Mike & Ikes for the Magic Mike?  More than just the name thing?

JM: Channing Tatum was really peaking this year. Magic Mike was such a great cheesy movie and you know he is People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive!”  I’ve also been wanting to try Mike and Ike’s, so I thought it would be a perfect match.

Q: What special flair do Mike & Ikes give the mosaic versus using generic jelly beans?

JM: Mike and Ikes have a magical psychedelic glowy quality. I also like that I am forced to use their color assortment. Jelly Bellys are really easy and fun to work with, but there are too many jelly bean artists as it is, so if possible I try to find creative ways to use other candy brands.

Q: Has the actor seen your candy tribute yet?

JM: I’m not sure. I would love to get a picture of him with it! Or if he likes it, I can mail him a framed print.

Q: Do you always hope that your subjects get to see their image and interact with it?

JM: Yeah. It’s exciting. A lot of celebrities have my portraits of them in their homes: Parker Posey, Rosie O’Donnell, Elvira Mistress of the Dark, Pink, George Lopez, Kathy Najimy, Bjork, Phyllis Diller, Ryan Adams, Barbi Benton, Gloria Steinem, Margaret Cho, Jackie Beat, The Scissor Sisters, Ricki Lake. It’s always exciting when Snoop Dogg gives you a shout out on Twitter!

Q: When you do a food mosaic, how much raw material winds up in your stomach?

JM: Not much. Usually once it’s in my studio and becomes art supplies, it’s not appetizing anymore.

Q: What’s coming next?

JM:  The PR rep for Glee’s Becca Tobin (lead cheerleader Kitty Wilde) told me that she wanted to do something fun for her charity, so they had me make her portrait to auction off. I thought Hot Tamales (“fierce cinnamon” candies) would be perfect!  I like the idea of sexy bad girls made out of Hot Tamales. So they approached the candy company (parent company Just Born, also the maker of Mike and Ikes) and asked them to donate the candy for the portrait.

Q: So what’s your dream gig?

JM: What I’d really like to do is a show of all Bravolebrities made out of Tic Tacs. Andy Cohen from Bravo network is obsessed with everyone’s breath, and I would just love to do a whole show of all The Real Housewives! But I need a partnership with the candy company and Bravo to really make it work. Cross promotion helps get the exposure that you need to make a project most successful.

Do you get Good and Plenty of Taylor Swift’s music?

(What brands would you like to see in Jason’s next celebrity mosaic?  You can keep track of his future candy art here.)

 

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