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Exclusive interview with Sham Ibrahim: Hollywood's favorite pop artist

Sham Ibrahim posing with a selection of his artwork. Photo taken by Celeste Octavia.
Sham Ibrahim posing with a selection of his artwork. Photo taken by Celeste Octavia.
Used with permission from Sham Ibrahim

Sham Ibrahim is known among many Hollywood elite for his amazing and thought provoking pop art. Examiner had a chance to speak with Sham about art and what inspires his creations. He also spilled the beans on his upcoming art show at the World of Wonder Storefront Gallery in Hollywood in a Wednesday press release. Check out what Sham had to say about his art, his experiences in Hollywood and more. Check out the interview and many pieces of art that Sham was kind enough to share.

SF: You remind me of the Andy Warhol of this generation. How do you feel when people make that comparison?

SI: I'm more than grateful and more than happy that Hollywood has been so responsive. Truthfully, the art galleries in the "real" world of art have not been that responsive. They think I'm a kind of a big joke.

SF: Why do you think that is?

SI: I think because there aren't a lot of gimmicks in my artwork. I think in the art world it's all about gimmicks. I guess giving the paintings to the celebrities is kind of a gimmick. My work is very blatant and straightforward and it is what it is. I gravitate to pop culture and that's not really something the galleries are interested in.

SF: Some of your art is pretty controversial. Isn't that a gimmick in itself?

SI: Right and I'm perfectly fine with gimmicks. I don't really attach deep meaning to my art. Like when people ask me what the meaning was in my painting of Rihanna people ask me what is the meaning. Well there is no meaning. I saw that image plastered across every tabloid and magazine in America, I thought well if it's so important that we should put it on every magazine, then why not hang it on your wall. That was sort of my attitude so there wasn't really some deep thought that I was making a statement against it or for it. I saw it so much that I thought it should be art. Some people thought I was glorifying domestic violence and that is not at all what I was doing. There was so much controversy behind it and I felt like I was misunderstood. So because of that, I ended up donating the money that I sold the portrait for to a domestic violence shelter.

SF: Your artwork is really affordable and that's something that a lot of people don't know. Why do you refuse to inflate your prices?

SI: I refuse to mark up the price of my art. The whole point of my art is so that someone who has a minimum wage job can afford my art. I'd rather sell a million of my pieces for a reasonable price and let everyone enjoy my art than to mark up the price so that only one person can enjoy it.

SF: How do you decide what to paint or what inspires you?

SI: The way that I see pop culture, tabloids and media for example...I just painted a picture of Paula Deen and Donald Sterling as African American slaves. What happened to their reputation and their image overshadows anything they've ever done. That is because of media and our media driven culture. That is the art I focus on because some events like that happen in our history should be captured in art.

SF: With so much going on in the media, how do you decide what gets painted and what doesn't?

SI: To be an honest artist I think you have to comment on your era and the time that you're living in. As an artist, that is what I try to do as best I can. Whenever an event gets a lot of media play, that's when I feel like it needs to be on canvas. Lately I have been trying to gravitate more toward the political. Right now I'm working on a canvas of 9/11 because I just feel like how could I be doing all these pop culture things and not give any attention to an event that has changed our American history and shaped us so much.

SF: You remind me of a NYC Club Kid, tell me about your look.

SI: I left home young and moved to San Francisco when I was 17. I was adopted by a family of drag queens and club kids. That's how I developed my look. I was in art school but because of my look I always got called to do things in front of the camera. I started out as a go go dancer and that led to small parts in music videos. From there I joined the union and started doing legitimate acting work. I wasn't really pursuing a career as an actor but when someone approaches you and tells you we're going to pay you X amount of dollars to basically stand around and they're going to give you free food too, it's hard to say no as a starving artist.

SF: You have painted and then gifted a lot of paintings to a lot of famous people. Tell me how you got started doing that.

SI: Acting was a segway to meet celebrities and to start giving them portraits. Whenever I was on a movie set and saw someone I liked, I would start to befriend them and then give them a portrait. Everybody was really supportive and responsive. These people that I watched on television would tell me that the work is so great and that they love it. Then they would hang it in their home.

Sham Ibrahim has painted many celebrities including Lisa Vanderpump, Lance Bass, RuPaul, Boy George, Michael Jackson and more. He may be Hollywood's favorite pop artist but he is truly one of the most grateful and humble people in the business. Sham has an upcoming art show where many of his amazing art pieces will be up for sale. Each piece will be printed on canvas and there will only be 10 prints per run. The show is going to be held at the World of Wonder Storefront Gallery on Thursday, September 18 at 7 p.m. Those in the Los Angeles/Hollywood area should certainly plan to attend this star-studded event.

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