THE HIDDEN ARTIST: Preston Craig
CONNECTION TO NOHO: Former gallery manager of the Lankershim Art Center under the umbrella of the L.A. Printmaking Society
MEDIUMS: Acrylic and digital paint
WEBSITES: http://www.prestonfinearts.com and http://www.twistedteddys.com
My interview with Preston Craig, otherwise known on all his promotional material as Preston C., was set at a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf on Ventura Blvd.
Although I had some difficulty locating this CBT (for I rarely dose myself with caffeine at any coffee establishments), I didn't have any difficulty finding the 6'5" artist as he sat waiting for me near the window. Preston had been referred to me by an artist friend. She told me if anyone needed recognition, is was this man who had recently created a series called Twisted Teddys. Twisted Teddys, I asked? Yes, she said, you know—a teddy bear drug addict, a teddy bear dominatrix...teddy bears like that. Sounded twisted to me. But as it turned out, Preston's Teddys aren't that twisted after all. The "twist" comes in how he plans on using the images of them.
First, a little about Preston. Originally from Louisiana, he earned his MFA from the Academy of Art in SF and a BA in Applied Arts from the University of Louisiana and has traveled the world to do his scenic work. To look at his fine art examples though, you wonder how the same artist would paint a series of Teddy Bears.
As it turns out, these chubby characters, painted in the guise of an image we hold dear to our hearts, were the brainchildren of Preston's master's thesis project. He needed a relatable model to bring awareness to social issues he has cared deeply about for a long time. Thus Cruci Teddy, inspired by his Catholic upbringing, addresses childhood sexual abuse, Gangsta Teddy; gang life, Homeless Teddy; the increasing homelessness in LA as well as everywhere, and Porn Star Teddy because he knows personally of porn stars who have gotten trapped in the lifestyle and can't escape. The list goes on. He went on to say that the imagery touches on our childhood innocence that sadly gets tugged in directions we sometimes can't control because of of our environment. Ultimately, it is Preston's goal to have his otherwise not so innocent Teddys marketed in several forms, from trading cards to plush toys, to help support and benefit non-profit organizations with programs that address these social issues.
After my meeting with Preston, void of any coffee at all by the way, I gave some thought to the cross-over of his fine art landscape and portrait paintings to his pretty controversial hipster-looking Teddy Bears. I realized this gentle giant had done something he probably hadn't expected. He grayed a fine dividing line between people of all ages—the ones drawn to his more conservative work and the young who only wish they could paint like him—by bringing them together about the social issues that affect us all—whether we have had personal experience with some of them or second-hand exposure via media attention. I guess Teddy Bears are kinda like the heroes of our childhood, but take a look at Preston's. Maybe his Teddys will be the heroes of our future—a more, helpful, integrated, and aware one—I would hope.