The Southwest, rock icons, and religion: Artist tackles them all

May 2, 2013

Plainwell multi-media artist Crystal Overhuel, also known as Dupri Mangeldoft, says she was always taught to color (or paint) outside the lines. 


“My fifth grade teacher at Woodward Elementary, Mrs. Barney always told me to color outside the lines and I kept in touch with her up until her death probably twelve, thirteen years ago," says Dupri. "And we corresponded by mail and she always knew when a letter came from me because I always decorated the envelope or something. And she actually planted that seed. And told me to keep doing what I was doing. I wasn’t real good in a lot of my studies but art and Phys. Ed. were one of my strong points. So I went with the art.”

Dupri makes different kinds of kitsch art. This kind of art features a lot of pop culture and sometimes has a gaudy quality. A lot of her work has a Southwestern feel.

“I was actually born in El Paso, Texas and all my summers were spent growing up there, went to Juarez a lot and was inspired by the colors," she says. "Frida Kahlo is one of my favorite artists and just the brightness, I love bright colors. I don’t care if they don’t go together. I just like how it comes out. The dots, Mississippi inspired folk art. A lot of outside artists from the South were self- taught, couldn’t write or spell a lot of them. I just started doing my S’s backwards and it became a trademark of mine.”

One of those kitsch art works is called ‘Funky Mojo Guy.’ Its body is made out of a ukulele and the eyes are bongo drums with tin can lids nailed and glued to the top of them. Dupri found materials for Funky Mojo Guy in the trash. She painted it blue with green and red stripes and dots along the border. 

Dupri also takes her inspiration from iconic musicians. One of her pieces reads “Dear Peoples My Name is a Secret,” which is based on a Bob Dylan quote. Dupri says she hopes to give the work to Dylan one day.

For someone who’s not a big Elvis fan, Dupri has certainly made a lot of art featuring the old rock n’ roll legend. She decorated an old record player with things that remind her of Elvis and entered it into a kitsch art show.

“Nobody’s as kitsch as Elvis," says Dupri. "I wasn’t a fan of his music but just the cult behind him and the gaudiness I guess. This sat in the middle of the turntable. It’s probably an old Avon guitar bottle with Elvis’s picture on it, a pair of baby shoes that I found that turned into blue suede shoes”.

Dupri also incorporates religion into her art work. She likes to decorate religious art she finds in the trash. Like in her tribute to Howard Finster, a man who started preaching at age sixteen. The original painting portrays Jesus on a ship. After Dupri was done with it, Jesus was holding a paint brush, his crown was made of old fountain pen points, and part of the ship was made of broken rosary beads and pearls. She also put a poem around the frame.

Poet Jesus speak to me poet of the hill and sea singing by blue Galilee poet Jesus you who saw something like eternal law love redeeming every flaw poet of the tree and sod poet of the sky and clod pointing to the stars of God – W.M. Steiger