’90s nostalgia powers pop culture exhibit

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First Posted: 6/3/2013

Nostalgia is a powerful thing.
The sound of a few bars hummed from a fondly remembered tune or the sight of a beloved cartoon character from the sugar cereal-sweetened Saturday mornings of youth can time warp a person right back to childhood. It can unearth all kinds of half-forgotten memories and remind a person not only of who they are, but even why they are who they are.
That’s the effect Christopher J. Hughes is going for with the pieces he’s preparing for “As Seen on T.V.,” a special art exhibit paying tribute to ’90s television and pop culture, which will be on display at New Visions Studio & Gallery from June 7 through June 27.
This Friday, the exhibit will kick off with an opening reception in which several of the participating artists will be present, as will be Scranton-based band Crock Pot Abduction, playing theme songs from iconic ’90s shows such as “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Step by Step,” and more.
“It’s really fun to look back at the television that we grew up with and see it in a completely different way,” Hughes said.
“For me, ‘The Adventures of Pete & Pete’ has really stuck with me. There are going to be people who come to the show and have no idea the spoofs I’m pulling with my ‘Pete & Pete’ stuff. But for the people who remember all those oddball episodes, when those people come through the door, they’re going to smile.”
Hughes, whose pop culture-inspired art can also be found online at peterparkerpa.com, will be joined by 10 other area artists for the exhibit, which is expected to feature around 50 different pieces.
“I put a post on my Facebook wall and tagged a few friends who I thought would be interested, and then, just like that scene from ‘Wayne’s World,’ they told two friends, and they told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on and so on,” Hughes, former interim editor for The Weekender, said.
“This thing really took on a life of its own.”
Among the artists alongside Hughes is Gerry Stankiewicz, who Hughes said was instrumental in pushing his original idea – a show dedicated solely to his beloved ‘Pete & Pete’ – to encompass the wider universe of ’90s kid culture.
“Most of the stuff I’ll be putting in the show will be video game stuff I grew up on, like Mario and ‘Street Fighter,’” Stankiewicz said. “I remember getting a Nintendo when I was younger and playing a Mario game for the first time. It’s like a generational thing. I know a lot of people who share that experience and refer to it throughout their lives,”
Stankiewicz noted that the exhibit promises to showcase as broad a range of artistic styles, as it will a variety of nostalgic tastes. For example, artist Robert Brenne’s pieces are functional amplifiers inspired by everything from Marvel superheroes to “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” while Melanie Boisseau has been making three-dimensional “heads” of characters from such cartoons as “Daria,” “The Powerpuff Girls” and “Doug.”
Boisseau, who is also one of the owners of New Visions, explained why the “As Seen on T.V.” exhibit was practically tailor-made for the gallery.
“We’re all about nostalgia. We have a big gift shop here where we sell comic books and records. It’s all the kind of stuff that makes you say, ‘Oh, wow. I had that as a kid,’” she said.
“It takes you back to when you were young and carefree.”