Gay Atlanta artists debut tribute to Spice Girls

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Paul Wolski's brand of stylishly gay art has dotted Atlanta for years and now the designer has unleashed his talents on a new book celebrating the Spice Girls on their 20th anniversary.

Wolski, whose career has included a stint as art director of David Atlanta, is best known in gay Atlanta circles for his Alter Ego Pop Art. But now he's turning his design sensibilities to the cover of  “Record Redux: Spice Girls,” a new book from gay Atlanta music buff, critic and Spice Girls fanboy Quentin Harrison. The book drops on Friday and the pair is celebrating with a launch party at Slice.

The work is the first in a long-line celebrating the durability of female musicians. When Harrison mentioned to Wolski who the first subject was, Wolski immediately knew he was game. 

“It was like we were kindred spirits.  He was looking for a book designer. I was intrigued with designing a book. Doing the cover would be the icing on the cake,” Wolski (second image) said.

Project Q Atlanta caught up with Wolski recently to talk about his long career in design, how the book project came together, why the Spice Girls matter and Friday's launch party.

Tell us a little about your background. 

I have been a designer for 25 years. I’ve spent my whole life involved in art – drawing and design. My first job out of art school was working for Walt Disney Imagineering, where I illustrated certain Disney characters for theme parks. I have worked in publishing. I currently work for a retail design agency, but in my spare time I’m involved in Alter Ego Pop Art, my enterprise. I like interesting projects that cross my path. 

How long have you been doing Alter Ego Pop Art? 

I started that in 2002. It combines a lot of things I love – Disney animation and other influences such as film, my passion for pop culture and fashion. I have done a lot of art shows over the years. I have brought [my style] into freelance projects and some merchandising. I am very excited to have this on a book cover.

Describe Alter Ego Pop Art.

It’s mixed media in a modern sense, hand-drawn and hand-inked then scanned and rendered digitally. It’s blending old school and new school techniques. I have done [my work] at gallery shows and put them on merchandising from coffee cups to shower curtains.

Didn’t you take a break for a while?

I took a five-year break. I was involved in a small community theater (Odd Man Out Theater) but I felt being pulled back.

Tell us about some of the events you’ve been involved with.

A lot of what I’ve done has sort of a social, cocktailing vibe. My characters lend themselves to that setting. Initially I did a lot of shows in nightclubs, but I have also donated my creative time to other design projects.  I have done some work with Joining Hearts where my pop art has played a role.

How did the Spice Girls project come up?

Quentin had a mutual friend who connected us. When I heard his story and heard about his Kickstarter campaign to fund his dream, that spoke to me. I love someone who has that fire. He was familiar with me through my art. It was like we were kindred spirits.  He was looking for a book designer. I was intrigued with designing a book. Doing the cover would be the icing on the cake.

When I found out it was about Spice Girls, I was in! They are a fascinating, cultural symbol.  When I learned more about what Quentin was trying to do with shining a light on their musical prowess and the contributions they have made and how they have continued to make music over the last 15 to 20 years, I thought it was worth it. This will kick off what will be 14 books of women in popular music who often do not get their dues.

Who all will be part of the series?

We’ll be doing Carly Simon next month, Donna Summer next December and then – to coincide with Madonna’s 60th birthday – we are looking at August 2018 to do her. With some of these women, you can argue that they have been covered extensively, but what we talk about is their celebrity and their impact on pop culture. 

These discographies not only capture the stats and the charts related to every album or single they have released, but it is a commentary about what makes that single significant, or what the artist was trying to do with that album. I am a music lover and I love that. Others will be Sheena Easton and Kim Wilde and Bjork, every music style and genre. It will be a great collection. It will be the kind of book you can pick up and down and never lose your place, that are fun and can be read anywhere, anytime,

What can patrons expect from the event on Friday?

It will mark the 20th anniversary of the single “Wannabe” on the UK charts. That was a calculated move. It will be a celebration, an opportunity to meet Quentin. The music will be fantastic. It won’t be just a rotation of the four songs everyone knows from the Spice Girls. There will be other music from them, plus other great music from other artists. We’ll have cocktails, and we are also giving away a signed copy of the book and commemorative posters.

Are you a Spice Girls fan?

I remember when they came on the scene, I loved them. I felt like after 10 years of grunge, flannel shirts, and angry garage rock, they seemed like a return to fun. It harkened back to the ‘80s.

Spice at Slice takes place Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Slice Piedmont.

[top image courtesy Paul Wolski]


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