A “pictorial snipe” is anything added to a movie poster after its original printing, local artist Maxx Henry-Frazer says. Official changes are often made because text or imagery is deemed offensive, but Henry-Frazer is taking a more creative approach to this technique by painting pop-culture icons onto vintage posters. He calls the modern-meets-nostalgic work “snipe art.”
“Aside from movie posters, I also work on political and propaganda posters from as far back as World War I,” Henry-Frazer says. “I haven’t found any other artists that consistently work on vintage posters, so I’m unique in that regard. A lot of the posters I paint on are extremely rare. Several of the WWI posters are almost assuredly the best surviving examples of that particular poster.”
His collection of posters and other vintage prints, such as newspapers, photographs and lobby cards, includes upward of 1,500 items, some more than 100 years old. The artist and avid collector acquires the materials from auctions and estate sales, as well as from other collectors on eBay.
Although his collection is eclectic, he says foreign movie posters are still his favorite as they come directly from their countries of origin.
“Countries like Italy and France not only had pretty strong movie industries going back as far as the '50s and '60s but were also much less conservative with the imagery they allowed in the posters,” Henry-Frazer says. “You can find several examples of movie poster imagery from those countries that was deemed too risqué for the American market.”
One of the most common subjects in Henry-Frazer’s work is The Simpsons, a show he says he worshipped as a child.
“I really enjoy the suspension of disbelief that is necessary to lose one’s self in cartoons and movies,” he says. “It’s something that we carry over from our childhood. While the subject matter has to become more realistic to maintain our interest, we’re still looking to lose ourselves in that moment. Bridging the gap between what captivated us as children and what now captivates us as adults is something that I think people that engage with my work find most intriguing.”
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Currently, he’s exploring the contrast between American life presented to U.S. citizens via propaganda posters during WWI and WWII and the realities of family life that made The Simpsons so popular.
Henry-Frazer’s work touches on national politics and American pop culture, but his posters are making their way around the world — to customers as far away as Saudi Arabia and as famous as Dave Chappelle.
“My largest sale to date was six French Grande movie posters to a gentleman from Saudi Arabia, who had recently completed the construction of 50-seat home theater,” Henry-Frazer says. “I also had the honor of meeting and delivering a painting to Dave Chappelle. The piece was a gift from a good friend of his and fellow comedian. Dave was very gracious, and I am really happy he ended up with that particular painting.”
Henry-Frazer is also making a name for himself on a local level. He is working to complete a six-piece project at a Dallas children’s hospital commissioned by the George and Faye Young Foundation.