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Celebrity photos good enough to eat

You can tell from Jaimie Warren’s work that she has a sense of fun.

The Kansas City-based photographer and artist co-hosts a live variety show, “Whoop Dee Doo,” with a werewolf named Matt. She’s fond of absurdist re-creations of artworks, like a gonzo Cindy Sherman.

And she shoots self-portraits of herself as celebrities crossed with items of food. You know: Lasagna Del Rey. Oreo-prah Winfrey. Pretzel Rod Stewart.

The food-celebrity mash-ups, inspired by punning Photoshopped portraits of celebrities she finds on the Internet,  are part of a series she calls “Celebrities As Food.” And unlike the digitally tweaked versions she draws from, Warren’s images are Photoshop-free.

She and her friends work together to create sets, costumes and staging to transform her into, say, Matza Zsa Gabor. (She credits one friend in particular, Lee Heinemann, for his wig and makeup work.)

The process of making such a photograph can take months, she says, which is why she’s so thankful to the Kansas City art community for its support.

“I try to make it genuinely fun, and the best work that I’ve made is when I have my community and friends are involved,” she said enthusiastically. “When we’re having a great time you can tell, and I think that’s what makes it more successful.” Everybody wants each other to be successful, she said.

Warren, 33, was born and raised in Wisconsin, but she moved to Kansas City to attend college at the Kansas City Art Institute. She confesses to a long fascination with celebrities and celebrity culture, particularly flamboyant types. Roseanne Barr is a favorite, as is Dolly Parton, Michael Jackson, Little Richard and reality shows such as “Flavor of Love” with rapper Flavor Flav.

And food? Sure. But not necessarily for eating.

“I do love food, definitely,” she said. “I love the dimension and the color it brings to an image, and the humor it brings to those qualities.”

Warren was recently honored with the 2014 Baum Award for an Emerging American Photographer, sponsored by the Baum Foundation and SF Camerawork, a San Francisco gallery. The prize includes a $10,000 grant. Warren’s work, including “Celebrities As Food,” will be on display from May 1 to June 21 at SF Camerawork.

The celebrities she parodies have yet to call, she says, but that’s OK: Warren has a private side herself. Despite her self-portraiture, she’s not much into self-promotion.

“I stay away from promoting my work through any kind of social media,” she said. “Maybe it’s because I’m a self-portrait artist so I try to keep my actual identity a little more mysterious, so it doesn’t ruin the facade. I like that people will sometimes go to an exhibition of mine and not know what I look like.”

Perhaps one day that will change. After all, it takes some talent to make art that’s both fun – and nutritious.

- Todd Leopold, CNN