Parker Ito asked orderartwork.com, a Chinese company which makes oil paintings on-demand, to create a series of paintings based on a single image which would be broadly familiar to Internet users—a stock photo depicting a smiling, blonde female wearing a backpack which (amongst its other usages) a “parked domain” company called Demand Media employs to catch the eye of Web surfers who accidentally click to the sites it owns.
The resulting work–The Most Infamous Girl in the History of the Internet–exists as both these made-to-order paintings as well as a heavily re-blogged Web meme.
In regard to the paintings, they might be considered in relation to Warhol’s Marilyn series of silkscreened paintings.
Both Marilyn Monroe and “the parked domain girl” are icons of emptiness.
Monroe was a blank slate for sexual desire, the parked domain girl is a symbol of sites without content.
Furthermore, both painting series automate the painting proces which, then, further amplifies the sense of an emptying-out of content.
And, finally, in both cases the artists are each interested in depicting the process of their own making as much as they’re interested in depicting the icon being processed.
For example, one views Warhol’s rough usage of the silkscreen technology as much as a legible image of Monroe, and one views the hands of the different painters Ito employs to create the painted images as much as a single painting of the parked domain girl.
However, at this level–the level of a process being depicted—Ito’s series takes a departure from Warhol’s own that allows it to exist as an intriguing version on pop art rather than an imitation of it.
What fascinated Warhol was the way that “real life” stars like Monroe developed a life of their own in the sphere of reproducible images.
Ito, though, picks up on the fact that an icon like the “parked domain girl” is not even based on a “real life” star—she’s an icon who short-circuits the previous paradigm of stardom.
In the wake of the Internet, pop culture is something consumed and lived amongst; there is no need for pop to reference a real world as the real world is to a great extent pop.
A model posed for the photograph, yes, but that model is anonymous; the parked domain girl’s identity is entirely native to the sphere of pop representation on the Web.
By hiring a company to create hand-made oil paintings of the parked domain girl, Ito brings her into the realm of “real life” for the first time.
His work is thus meaningful not for depicting the automated painting of a “real” icon, but for depicting the outsourced hand-painting of a “fake” icon and, in so doing, bringing Warhol’s joke full circle.