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Washington Voices

Artist/Hair Stylist Gives Classic Art A New Do

Sat., May 17, 1997

Mona Lisa, Whistler’s Mother and the couple in American Gothic got some new do’s.

Deb McCulley, artist and Valley hair salon owner, decided to give these classics a modern style.

The brainstorm came in the midst of remodeling her salon, Studio 525 at Pines and Sixth. McCulley knew something more was needed. The Southwestern theme wasn’t enough. The colors were right. Bright peach, raspberry, purple. Lots of cacti, geckos.

The walls needed more life. She’s been painting since 1990 and turned to her palette for what was missing.

Using plywood, acrylic and oil paints, and a sander, McCulley recreated the Mona Lisa, Whistler’s Mother and American Gothic. Miss Mona, in curlers, is under a blow dryer. Whistler’s Mother has a towel wrapped around her head and People magazine in her hands.

And, in McCully’s takeoff on the American Gothic couple, the oncebald man has long brown hair and the once-bunned woman wears her hair layered and blond.

McCully picked those images because of their universal appeal.

Her friend Loralee Gray, an artist who helped McCulley remodel the salon, thinks the Salon Art series says a lot about “this whole beauty myth.”

“People come (to the salon) to reinvent themselves,” says Gray. The same goes for McCulley’s artwork. “You take something that we, as a society, take too seriously and transform it. I like the comment it makes.”

Her creativity created dollar signs.

“I planned on doing it just for the salon,” she says. But a client asked for a print. And McCulley got to thinking there was a huge untapped market for salon art.

Her basement is loaded with 48,000 greeting cards depicting the three paintings. The cards, bookmarks, business cards have been packaged by family and friends - “anyone I could enlist.” Orders are being filled for lithographs which will sell for $35. McCulley signed on her first distributor this week.

“That’ll keep me going,” she says. Most of her savings has been invested in the artwork. “The worst thing that’ll happen is we’ll break even. It would be unacceptable to me for it not to work.”

So far, her Salon Art series hangs on walls at a retirement home in Pennsylvania as well as hair salons in Alaska, Western Washington and the Valley.

She’s hoping to expand the offerings over the years to include other art classics with a modern twist. She hasn’t decided which subject will be next.

One day, McCulley envisions a catalog featuring her art on clothing and other products.

“I’m also realistic. That’s not within sight for a long time,” she says. “I’m not the best artist in the world, but what comes out of my work is harmony and balance.”

Now, she’s busy transforming the three paintings into winter scenes which will be sold as Christmas cards. “That’s our biggest market,” she says.

Instead of a bald spot, American Gothic’s farmer will wear a Santa’s hat and have lights strung around his shoulders. And Mona, she will be cradling a partridge and surrounded by a winter wonderland. Whistler’s Mother - McCulley’s not sure yet. “I don’t know that I really plan anything,” she says. “It kind of just evolves.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

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