Joe Forkan is a painter based in California. Since 2006, he's been working on paintings simultaneously inspired by The Big Lebowski and the work of old masters like Caravaggio, Rubens, Titian, and Velazquez. My favorite's the Rubens-inspired number above, titled "The Lamentation," but you can check out a bunch of them over at Uproxx, and if you happen to live near Costa Mesa, CA, you can go see them in person at the Frank M. Doyle Arts Pavilion.
Here's a question: is this "high art?" Do those distinctions even matter anymore? Forkan's statement is certainly high-minded:
…I struggled with the idea of making narrative paintings. Film and television have largely overtaken painting as the mediums for narrative approaches, and contemporary painters have largely focused their attentions elsewhere. Yet I have still found myself moved by paintings that depicted grand story arcs, compressing into a singular image a multitude of thoughts, ideas and emotions. … [In] narrative art from the Baroque era in particular … [t]he human interaction and conflicts, the formal qualities and modes of depiction give the paintings great breadth and depth and can continue to engage the viewer’s interest over time. These were challenges I wanted to engage in my work.
But maybe doing paintings based on The Big Lebowski is also a good way to get people into a gallery. On the other hand, pop culture is now so ubiquitous and all-consuming that maybe to keep it out of our "serious" art would be silly. Maybe The Big Lebowski is just as authentic an experience as anything else. And actually, now that I think about it, the very paintings that Forkan's referencing depicted religious narratives that were even more fantastical than The Big Lebowski, so maybe this is nothing new.
As is often the case, the last word should probably go to Calvin and Hobbes: