By Michele Brittany, a West Coast Bleeding Cool Correspondent
It seems like such an unusual combination – fighting video games, art and ice cream – however on Thursday, March 27th at the Cookies and Cream shop in South Pasadena, California it was standing room only in the salon style exhibition of art inspired by fighting video games. Over 80 artists’ pieces were gathered together in “Versus: The Fighting Game Art Show” that premiered on Thursday and continues through April 25th. The reception was a resounding success and for curator and artist Steve Minty, the show was an opportunity to give back to his community as well as an bring together a show based on his childhood interests of martial arts and fighting video games.
“I went to public schools that didn’t have a lot of after school classes” he says, and for a person wanting to explore and grow his artistic expression, Minty found it a struggle to find other artistic venues. That experience stuck with him and as a result, Minty knew that he “wanted to give opportunities to artists that don’t have an opportunity typically.” Six months ago he created a strong rapport with Cookies and Cream owner Cheng Liu, and Minty organized his first show in which he showcased six upcoming artists. And each month since, Minty has been curating shows at Liu’s shop.
“I like to give everyone a shot at having their work shown as long as it is up to a certain standard,” so Minty doesn’t require artists submitting a CV, but instead wants to receive photos that represent their best work. He’s aware that artists have different levels of skills and experience and for those with less experience, and he feels “I’m here to show them the ropes.”
In addition to providing opportunities to new artists, Minty has kept the commission markup low. Where galleries will take an average of 50% of the item’s price, he only takes 15%. And all of it goes to the South Pasadena Education Fund. Per Minty, “the 15% is used by SPEF as part of their ongoing effort to support South Pasadena’s five public schools. It helps with education classes that give students a deeper and enriched school experience.” The rest of the money goes to the artist.
This show however, was personal for Minty. He remembered playing Street Fighter Third Strike as a teenager. Squaring off against a competitor for a few rounds of combat, Minty said he “felt a sense of community with the other player as well as being able to focus on the character.” Of course I asked Minty who his favorite character was and without hesitaton, “Ryu all the way!”
That passion seeped into his show statement: “Ever since Heavyweight Champ as introduced back in 1976, even strangers. When selecting and battling as a character, they become an extension of the player. With this show, we aim for you to explore the process in creating unique characters for the fighting medium and the tribute to existing fight games.”
The response to his call for proposals to the artist community shocked Minty. “I tapped into a community of artists creating art inspired by video games.” Donna Letterese had shown in Minty’s January “Fluffy, Fuzzie, Cuddly Baddies” showcasing cute but evil animals, once again submitted and was accepted to this show.
“As a kid, I played ‘Mario’ sometimes,” Letterese said. “I’ve always loved video game art and had been really into the character design.” She admitted she wasn’t well skilled at playing the fighter games, however “I was always inspired by the beautiful backgrounds of Street Fighter and the elaborately designed characters. Cammy and Chun-Li were my favorite design-wise.”
For the show, Letterese did a lot of research on the characters and “ultimately I decided I’d do a fanart minpainting featuring Cammy and Chun-Li. I wanted them to be more play-fighting/playing then fighting one another.” She also took some inspiration from the hit movie Frozen and the result was her mixed media piece “Do You Wanna Kick A Snowman?”
Through the evening, many people got to admire and purchase fighter characters represented in their traditional style as well as through unique interpretations. All media forms seemed to be explored – paintings, prints, statues – and at all skill levels.
Letterese attended the art reception and was quite proud to see her piece hanging with the pieces that night. “I’m definitely grateful for the experience and meeting such nice people, and I look forward to future Cookie and Cream art related events in the future.”
Minty revealed that the next exhibition will showcase art inspired by “Saturday Morning Cartoons.” Although he said he’ll be taking a short break to complete some of his own art projects, he is always accepting submissions on instagram at @steveminty and #steveminty as well as at his website.
The “Versus: The Fighting Game Art Show” continues through April 25th at Cookies and Cream located at 1010 ½ Fair Oaks Avenue in South Pasadena. Artwork at the exhibition are available for purchase. Check Minty’s website for exclusive pieces shown online only.
All photos in this article are courtesy of Michele Brittany
Michele Brittany is an independent popular culture scholar and semi-professional photographer currently editing an upcoming anthology on the influence of James Bond on popular culture. She regularly posts reviews and analysis on the spy/espionage genre on her blog, Spyfi & Superspies.