When you think “art show,” you might think stuffy, pretentious, pompous. You might think glasses of Sauvignon Blanc and cubes of expensive cheese.
But you won’t find any of this at a Pancakes & Booze Art Show. Here, the wine comes in plastic cups, and the hors d’oeuvres are flapjacks and syrup served on a paper plate and eaten with a plastic fork. The artists are young and hip, and the guests wait for hours in a line that stretches around the block to get into this traveling art gallery.
Upon being allowed access to the show, held Jan. 26 at the Big Chief in Ivy City, I was greeted by jewelry vendors and body painters. An artist was painting a model, dressed in only a tiny pair of shorts, while others peddled their talents to the masses.
A handwritten sign advertised prices for painting your face, neck, arm, chest and more (glitter tattoos were available too). I bit, stepping up and asking the artist, Naliya Amarian, for $20 worth of glamour on my arm. She suggested something that would start on my forehead and trail down to my neck. I love to be adorned, but I’d just spent a half-hour putting makeup on, so I declined.
As she painted dramatic red and black swirls from the back of my shoulder to my elbow, I wondered — this was great fun, but how, exactly, would you make a living at it? After all, my 16-year-old daughter only gets $20 to paint faces at children’s birthday parties. Does the group do bachelorette parties? Adult birthday parties?
As a member of DC Creators, Amarian might do any one of these, but she told me as she spattered my arm with white, sparkly droplets, that the biggest part of her bank account comes from creating the art for video games.
Other artists painted models throughout the show, but most of the artwork was in the form of paintings, drawings and photos, much of it centered around pop, graphic, modern and abstract art.
Among subjects were comic book and anime characters, including a deeply tanned Velma from Scooby-Doo. Portraits were common; popular ones included Malcolm X, Tupac Shakur and Bob Marley, but I also saw portraits of Ice Cube, Prince, Bernie Sanders, a Care Bear and the Alien from Looney Tunes.
Photographer Christian B. Locke had on display a stunningly bright photo of a sunflower with a bumblebee on the approach.
Adjacent to the sunflower was a piece of art incorporating vinyl records (one was Michael Jackson’s Thriller), heavily spattered with colorful paint.
Vendors sold hand-painted hats and sneakers, while another artist created her signature abstract bubble-like images live.
Attendees were lined up for the pancakes being cooked and served on the rooftop, and if it wasn’t about 40 degrees with a stiff wind blowing, I would have joined them. Alas, I made do with my plastic cup of wine.
It’s an unusual event. It feels a little bit like Mardi Gras, a little bit like Cirque du Soleil and a little bit like the Renaissance Faire, but without beads, ribbon dancers and jousting. For a buttoned-up town like D.C., it’s a pretty wild time, so don’t miss the Pancakes & Booze Art Show when it comes back to the area in April. A date and location is expected to be announced by the end of this week. Check back here for an update.
At only $5 a ticket ($10 for a VIP that lets you jump the line — well worth it), the show is a bargain — even if you don’t eat the pancakes.