“Hungry Hungry Hippo” by Caleb Sims.

If it is true we are the sum of our experiences, then Caleb Sims is the archetypal ’90s kid. His latest series of self-portraits is a witty, nostalgic look at pop cultural references. It’s not so much “What I’ve Become” as “What I Came From.”

The Crosby native has inserted himself into a series of iconic images from television, games and all manner of confections.

The exhibition is Sims’ reward for winning TASIMJAE 2021, The Art Studio’s membership show. It doesn’t take long for the visitor to get in on the jokes. Sims is clearly having fun using superb technique to render oil paintings that wink at classical portraiture but with a wry humor.

“Orange Scale For Kupka” by Caleb Sims.

Entering the gallery, we are confronted with Sims’ “Orange Scale for Kupka,” a wonderful pastiche of Frantisek Kupka’s “The Yellow Scale” which hangs in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Kupka’s self-portrait depicts the artist lounging back in a chair, his left hand raised, holding a cigarette. Kupka’s painting is notable for the bright yellow smoking jacket and background. Sims has substituted the yellow for orange. And rather than wearing a smoking jacket, Sims is wearing a tiger suit, his hand holding a Cheeto rather than a cigarette. The painting works on several levels of cleverness, from its mastery of technique, it’s knowledge of art history, and the hilarious way it subverts product advertising, more Tony the Tiger than Chester the Cheetah.

“Toss Me A Ninja Slice” by Caleb Sims.

The puns and visual humor continue throughout the exhibition. Most of the works are small, foot-square paintings, and the fact the technique is employed to depict the mundane just adds to the enjoyment. Here we are in an art gallery looking at paintings where the artist is depicted as a chocolate bunny (“Sweet Bunny”), a gummy bear (“Gummy Me”) and a car window toy (Garfield Clinger).

A particular favorite is “Hungry Hungry Hippo,” a vibrantly colored painting with the artist, all wide eyed and open mouth, in the throes of competition with a green hippo. Sims draws on his childhood of the 1990s and anyone in their mid-30s — or the parent of someone of that age — will get all the references.

“Not the Momma” by Caleb Sims.

A pair of larger paintings sum up the playful theme of the show. “Toss Me A Ninja Slice” finds Sims in full Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle mode (Raphael, judging by the red bandana). On his traditional Sai dagger is impaled a piece of pizza. Next the that is “Not the Momma,” probably the most technically accomplished piece in the exhibition. Sims is perfectly absorbed into the dad from “Dinosaurs,” which ran from 1991 to 1994, which the baby, whose catchphrase “Not the Momma” was ubiquitous in the early ’90s.

Sims just comes out with a painful pun in the painting “Funguy.” The portrait shows Sims with mushrooms growing from his mouth and fungus growing on the side of his head like that on tree bark. He is a “funguy” (fungi, get it?). The way the head leans toward to the viewer, one gets the impression that he is waiting for us to groan and then chuckle. Sims is a fun guy — he’s also a pretty good painter.

“What I’ve Become” is on display through May 24 at The Art Studio, Inc., 720 Franklin in downtown Beaumont. Hours are noon to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.

For more information, visit www.artstudio.org.

This story first ran in the May 20, 2022 Art of Living section of The Beaumont Enterprise.

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