Student creates new art from thrifted paintings


Michelle Dean with a painting she bought from a thrift store, then painted over to create a new piece of art on November 20, 2019.

At first glance, Michelle Dean’s kitchen looked normal. A stove, a refrigerator and some old-fashioned artwork were framed on the walls.

Upon further inspection, the paintings weren’t the wholesome, old-fashioned, white-picket-fence art that you normally see in someone’s kitchen.

What was once a painting of children holding apples and beckoning a puppy, now shows the children holding the gouged-out eyes of a police officer lying on the ground.

The child is now extending a donut to the eye-less cop and calling, “Here piggy, piggy!”

Dean, a junior visual communication design major, finds old artwork at thrift stores and paints over them to give them a new, dark-comedy meaning.

“I’ll kind of just analyze it for a bit and then try to figure out what I can do to paint over it and give it a different perspective,” she said.

Dean incorporates modern images such as Mortal Kombat stamina meters, juggalos and the “Got ‘em” hand sign into vintage paintings.

Dean’s friends and family started to buy these old paintings for her to paint over as gifts.

“I really appreciate [her art] because she can buy just a really plain framed picture that you would probably see at your grandmother’s house and completely make it modern and new,” Alicia Johnson, Dean’s friend, said.

Dean’s boyfriend Adam Atkinson, a senior digital media production major, bought her a painting of girls picking flowers up the hill from a church. Dean painted over it to show the church up in flames. The girl holding flowers is exclaiming, “Glory Hallelujah!”

This painting is Dean’s favorite. 

“[The painting] has the least amount of elements that I added,” Dean said. “But it still has an entire new feel from the original piece. I grew up going to a Catholic school and I was always off put by some of the standards and morals.”

Contact Sylvia Lorson at [email protected].