Somewhere in the depths of Oregon there lives a man who has spent the past six months painstakingly creating 44 unique masterpieces. He goes only by Bijijoo.
“It’s just my art name,” he tells Paste via telephone one afternoon. “My friends call me B.”
After researching their characters and personalities, Bijijoo painted detailed, lifelike oil portraits of every one of the 44 presidents of the United States of America. That is, he painted detailed, lifelike oil portraits of every one of the 44 presidents of the United States of America cradling legs of ham.
Every man from Monroe to McKinley, Coolidge to Clinton, is represented in Bijijoo’s collection, and each portrait is one of a kind. The first question is obvious: Why the ham? “I don’t really have a good, artistic explanation for the ham,” he laughs. “I guess it all started about four years ago.”
According to Bijijoo, who, by the way, has his Ph.D. in chemistry, he has a friend who is, as he describes it, “just fascinated by lard.” This friend even went so far as to develop the concept of “larding” someone, which is a verb established to describe the act of sneaking into a friend’s house and leaving a massive chunk of lard. This same friend also happens to love Richard Nixon, so for Christmas four years ago, Bijijoo presented her with a massive portrait of her favorite former commander-in-chief holding ham. And just like that, his latest project, Presidential Ham, was born.
By day, Bijijoo is a scientist, and he keeps his art and his work separate, hence the moniker. Although the process of acquiring such an advanced degree takes years of extensive study, within the past five or six years, Bijijoo began spending more and more time on his meat-themed art. “I guess I’ve always been kind of—it sounds stupid, but—an artist at heart or something,” he says. “I find of all the things that I do, finishing a painting is one of the most satisfying things, so it’s just my favorite thing to do. It’s not all fun and it takes a lot of work, but finishing something like that, I just feel the most satisfied. I like it a lot better. Science is all right, but I’m not interested in becoming a professor or anything like that. I don’t really like academia.”
Presidents Day 2011 will be a memorable one for the artist-slash-scientist. His top choice gallery, the Basil Hallward Gallery at Powell’s City of Books in his home of Portland, will host his hammy collection in a gallery show coinciding with the holiday.
So, which one is his favorite?
“Well, actually, I’m a sucker for the facial hair on some of them,” he says. “Like Van Buren and Rutherford B. Hayes—they have great beards. I mean, Rutherford’s beard is great, and Van Buren has the huge, white sideburns. I think those two might be my favorite.”
Peruse a gallery of the flesh-hugging leaders below, and check out PresidentialHam.com and Bijijoo.com for more information, including how to order your very own Presidential Ham on a poster or post card.