The painting American Gothic is creepy enough on its own. But a trio of Australian creatives upped the artistic ante; they went sinister. “Poor sexual performance can be a warning sign of future medical problems,” the farmer’s wife tells her husband in the newly animated painting. She then demonstrates said medical “problems”–and they are pretty insurmountable. It’s one of more than a dozen famous works by the likes of Rembrandt, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Velázquez, to be edited in the spirit of Terry Gilliam.
Doug Bayne, along with Ben Baker and Trudy Cooper, made the compilation for the Australian sketch show, Elegant Gentleman’s Guide to Knife Fighting. The group wasn’t trying to make fun of fine art. “We just have trouble expressing ourselves, so we end up pulling Art’s hair because we can’t figure out something nice to say to it,” Bayne says. For him, the project was more about championing the public domain. “Seventy years after an artist dies, his or her paintings become the property of everyone, which I love. It’s like your body returning to the earth to feed the plants, except it’s your ideas getting redistributed.”
The group would take a word like “kiss” and plug it into the search field at WikiPaintings.org. Then they’d choose a painting, like The Reluctant Bride by Auguste Toulmouche, in which a young woman is kissed on the head. “She looks so indignant, though, that she could easily be getting a raspberry,” says Bayne. Suddenly, with a simple animation and a loud, lip smacking slurp, and the painting is created anew.JM