‘Shrek’ out this local indie artist


Photo Courtesy of Alethea Busch

Alethea Busch creates Shrek paintings to challenge commercialized art. The featured paintings are “Gimme Dat O-gurt,” “The Yogre Instructor,” and “Somewhere Ogre the Rainbow.”

By Sidney Madden, Staff writer

Local artist Alethea Busch was 6 years old when the movie “Shrek” came out. The franchise grew alongside her from childhood to adolescence through sequels and memes. The ogre has since become a recurring symbol in her artwork.

Busch, senior in FAA, made “Shrek” the subject of her work with her painting, “I Like My Eggs Ogre Easy,” at the beginning of her sophomore year.

“It was Shrek with eggs — it was like eggs over easy,” Busch said. “The eggs were the boobs, and then it was on a naked body and there was Sriracha being poured on it. It was in clouds on a skillet; just weird stuff.”

Her “Shrek” art inspiration came from the semester prior: an intimate art class that incorporated eggs into every piece and an unexpectedly popular “Shrek” parody video she made for a different class.

For Busch, it seemed natural to combine the two elements due to the positive feedback she received.

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Interested buyers for the original “Shrek” painting began messaging Busch on Instagram, offering her $200 to $300 for the piece. Busch sold it to a long-time friend from Skokie, Illinois, Lenny Veytsel, for a fraction of her other offers.

Veytsel was initially drawn to and comforted by the complexity of the piece.

“It brings me to almost a childish-like place,” Veytsel said. “I think that’s what gives me comfort is going back to my youth and going back to the days when you didn’t have to worry about college or bills or any real-life scenarios. It definitely has a child-like aspect to it, but there’s definitely maturity to it as well.”

Busch was baffled by the response to her “Shrek” art. Her other work is much more personal, including photography and paintings of old family photos. In time, Busch came to the conclusion that the impersonality was directly correlated to the piece’s popularity.

“Everyone can relate in different ways,” Busch said.

This experience prompted Busch to develop an interest in investigating the driving forces of commercial art.

During the fall semester in the class “Making and Meaning,” Busch had the opportunity to conduct her own experiment. She made her final project a manifesto: how to get famous.

She first began with a list of puns using the word “ogre” that would become the titles of the paintings. Eventually, she settled on “Gimme Dat O-gurt,” “The Yogre Instructor” and “Somewhere Ogre the Rainbow.” She searched for three of the most interesting Shrek facial expressions and matched them with the appropriate puns.

She chose other elements — the space background, the cheetah print, the origami and the overalls — because of their popularity.

Busch had interested buyers messaging her again on Instagram for the new “Shrek” pieces.

Nicole Brunel, graduate student in FAA, thinks Shrek as the focal point of the paintings gives the art more meaning.

“It’s cool that he is the only ogre that is portrayed as a hero,” Brunel said. “It’s kind of a reclaiming of an identity that people would say is bad.”

Busch agreed that even commercialized art can have meaning, intentional or not.

In “Gimme Dat O-gurt,” Busch said the berry and strawberry flavors are the gender norms society is fed, going in one ear and out the other. Similarly, Busch interpreted “Somewhere Ogre the Rainbow” as a symbol of gay pride.

Busch and Brunel are not artists confined to one medium or to one subject, but instead look to grow by challenging themselves to tackle different material and content.

Busch, who will be student teaching art education off-campus next semester, is ready to leave Shrek in her college days.

“I can’t do this green gradient again. I’m over mixing this ogre color,” Busch said. “I just feel like I’ve grown; I have so many ideas, I just need to get other ideas out. There are so many other things I want to make. I feel like this chapter of college is over, so I feel like the ‘Shrek’ paintings are over.”

Despite being tired of this series of paintings, Busch hopes to teach her future students how art and humor can intersect.

“I want them to know that comedy and humor are so valid in getting a meaning across because the funniness is what attracts people to these and that’s how you get an audience,” Busch said.

“It’s really easy to get an audience through humor. I would want my students to know that they could make art that is silly and fun to make and fun to look as long as they’re thinking of messages and content to put into them.”

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