How this Phoenix artist merged the dreams of MLK, Biggie into painting

“It was all a dream,” were the infamous BIG lyrics that went through Jared Aubel’s head as he sat in front of a blank screen in his Phoenix studio.

Brush stroke after brush stroke with acrylic and oil colors, Aubel heard these five words from the rapper hit “Juicy” from 1994 and painted a portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“It was a trigger to hear that song and then to think of Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech,” he said.

“It’s a powerful piece because they both talked about the same struggles and oppression and unfortunately everything is still happening, it keeps raising its ugly head.”

Artist Jared Aubel painted a portrait of Martin Luther King Jr., which was featured in a virtual exhibit at The Millet House.

The painting shows King in a brightly colored Coogi sweater and gold crown against a sky-blue background with spray-painted clouds, a nod to iconic photos of the late New York rapper by Barron Claiborne and Dana Lixenberg.

The Austrian clothing company Coogi was popular in the 1990s and known for its colorful abstract designs.

“I didn’t want to go too deep with it and that’s a lot of my artwork. I try to make it a bit funny and have some clever wit and when people see it they get a little smile or start a conversation on the subject, ”said Aubel.

The piece is titled “It Was All a Dream (Dream Big)” and can be seen as part of the virtual exhibition “Imagine: What Keeps Us From Unity” at the Millet House art gallery in Mesa. The show begins on January 18, the holiday of Martin Luther King Jr., and lasts through January 23.

In addition to Aubel’s works, Tiesha Harrison, Therosia Reynolds, Nik Ridley, Andrea Rogers and Skye Day Rockett are other artists in the exhibition.

How Aubel became an artist

Since childhood, Aubel said he wanted to be an artist. Eight years ago he quit his job as a bank courier to devote himself entirely to art.

His signature style is inspired by pop surrealism and he often uses lace tablecloths and vintage curtains to incorporate unique patterns into the backgrounds of his paintings. One of his pieces, a portrait of Mike Tyson, hangs in the boxing legends home.

Originally from the small town of Decatur, Illinois, he graduated from Chandler High School before getting his bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Arizona State University.

Growing up among people of different races helped him understand the importance of King’s mission.

“Being open to everyone, where they’re from, their history and upbringing, expands your acceptance of people,” said Aubel.

“You have to have empathy for people, that’s very important. (Martin Luther King Jr.) wanted equality for everyone and that doesn’t ask for much, which is the sad part. “

Elizabeth Montgomery is an arts and culture reporter for the Republic of Arizona, azcentral.com. Reach them at [email protected] or 602-444-8764. Follow her on Twitter @emontnews.

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