When Aaron Jupin was a kid, there was little separation between the animated world and reality. Having grown up in Disneyland’s backyard, better known as Orange County, and consuming cartoons like The Simpson, for which his uncle was an animator, Jupin not only had an early introduction to animation, but also became absorbed in the colorful two dimensional world.
“I remember I thought that the WB characters actually lived in the WB water tower at the studio, “admits Jupin, as he sits in his Boyle Heights studio. “Thats was real to me then, and I remember my family and I would always drive past this water tower by my house and every time I was like, ‘Thats exactly where the Animaniacs live’. There were probably a thousand other water towers in the area, and the studio isn’t even in Orange County, but to me that was the one.”
Jupin’s early interactions with classic animation provided an alternative understanding of what art was and inevitably laid the groundwork for his now complete infatuation with the seeping hand-drawn lines in movies like Bambi and Fantasia , and the faint smears and blurry frames he catches in old cartoons that only come from the slight of a human hand. For Jupin it’s all about the hand, the visible involvement of the animator.
“My parents never took me to any museums even though I’m sure they wanted to, so when I would go home, I would watch cartoons and would think, That’s art!” says, Jupin. “Watching cartoons was my my first introduction to the art world. I think that’s why I kind of put…this is so corny to say, but I put classic animation on a pedestal. Everything that goes into it all done by hand, that is art, that is true beauty, that is magic to me.”
Jupin’s longstanding fascination with classic animation now predominates his own practice. Through abstraction and manipulation, he takes recognizable images from the cartoons he was brought up on and twists them into a new context; one that inevitably reflects his exploration and understanding of how these familiar images resonate with him. Delicate back line-work and background details., rather than main characters, come to the forefront in his pieces, creating something abstract yet eerily rooted in a visual language familiar to anyone acquainted with early animation.
It can be as simple as a staircase background in the movie Cinderella, however the color of the carpet or the staircase’s steps, or even remembering what happens in a specific scene of the movie, will trigger a sentiment or memory that deeply resonates with him. When Jupin sees something that he likes and has a strong connection with it, he’ll immediately paint it, letting the images unfold like a never-ending sketch.
“I’ll paint this background from Cinderella that sticks out to me, then look at the painting and I’ll remember something else from the movie, and include it. It’s almost like I’m creating a narrative, but with images abstracted and put together,” says Jupin. “I want the viewer to recognize these images, but mot immediately know where they’re from. Through their own memories they have this attachment to the piece. Whether they know it’s from Cinderella or not, they’re still like ‘Oh I know this. This is familiar.'”
Daisy Duck’s beak, Bambi’s legs droopy white flowers, planks of wood and rope all make repeat appearances in his paintings. Whether standing alone, pieced together or painted on top of existing imagery – like on the covers of his abundant collection of pocket pornos – Jupin interjects classically animated imagery on to the canvas that evoke his strongest memories and most prominent feelings. Otherwise whimsical imagery reveals Jupin’s darker thoughts and undertones, a visual depiction of what he’s getting out of each cartoon.
“My paintings are just myself dealing with my emotions,” says Jupin. “I’m putting myself into these cartoons and images good and bad sentiments that these cartoons and images remind me of. I’m not painting all willy-nilly, like, ‘This is cool, let me paint’. If I paint something, it’s because I have particular feelings, and now I’m painting it.”
Jupin is continually working through new ideas, most recently inserting new colors to his pieces, and almost always referencing imagery that serendipitously pops into his personal life and warrants a connection with his memories and feelings.