From Beyonce to Wale to Elton John, Lady Gaga has stacked herself an eclectic bunch of collaborators, but 19-year-old Craig Gleason, can be credited for her most unexpected yet — Mr. George Washington. The Orange County native is responsible for flipping dollar bills into hand-painted Gaga-George fusions that have been recently found on a heap of blogs. Before painting up our own custom Ga-llar, the young artist shared his thoughts on this kooky creation. —Tracy Garraud
VIBE: Where does an idea to paint Lady Gaga on dollar bills come from?
CRAIG GLEASON: Well, first thing first, I am not a fan of Lady Gaga. I have a photographer friend who’s really into her, so I painted it as a joke. I wanted her to take pictures of my band [The McDaniels] so I thought maybe she’d trade photos for the dollar, but she still didn’t want to do it. Then she said she’d give me two dollars for the Lady Gaga. I said that was no good.
Damn, she tried to play you…
Yeah, she said she couldn’t trade Gaga dollars for a photo shoot she normally charges $60 for. I told her the dollar was worth $20 and that I’d pay her back the rest. She still said no. You would think something that she wanted any way, plus the $40 would do it, but no. So I figured I could do the same thing with a disposable camera.
Good call. Now if you’re not a fan of Gaga and did the dollar as a joke, how did it end up on some blogs?
I posted some on a status update on Facebook and this friend of mine — can’t think of her name — ended up posting it around and sending it to her friend who has a Lady Gaga fan site. From there it got re-blogged about a million times and then just became everywhere. So you know, it was all fate.
About how many requests are you getting a day?
I got like twenty people coming after me pretty much every day. There are people coming to me from across the world. But it’s illegal to paint on dollars in the first place and it’s illegal to mail out dollars internationally.
Did you find this out beforehand or after mailing?
I already knew [defacing] was frowned upon, but I figured it wasn’t the biggest crime in the world. But I had to keep telling the foreign people that I couldn’t do it.
[Laughs] Who are the foreign people?
The Netherlands, Spain, Guam, Paris, Italy, pretty much everywhere. But like I said I had to turn them down. Which sucks because I would’ve tripled the money I made.
How much have you made thus far?
Hmm, if I hadn’t spent any of it, so far I would have $1,300.
Has anyone notable asked for one of the dollars?
Um, no (laughs). I get a lot of girls buying them as gifts and then I get a lot of gay guys from New York. That’s the majority of it. One of my main reasons for doing this was because I thought I’d have a lot of beautiful women emailing me, but then all I get is like Jeff, Henry, Marcus, and I’m just like, ‘Oh no.’ But you know, their money is still good.
Paint anything else besides Gaga?
I have a knack for painting naked, elderly men. That’s what I’ve been into. Like frustrated mutants.
You go back to that in your spare time?
In my spare time I’m stuck painting… painting these dollars.
SEE HOW THE VIBE GAGA DOLLAR WAS CREATED
Has anyone from Lady Gaga’s camp reached out to you?
Not that I know of. I actually sent a letter to her fan mail person and I threw in a couple of the dollars explaining what it is. I said I would like to have a meeting with her to give her the full set of twelve. I think that would be pretty cool, to get a picture of that.
Are you thinking of painting other people on dollar bills in the future or maybe using a Lincoln look-a-like?
That’s a little too rich for my blood. Someone suggested I do Michael Jackson, but he doesn’t look like any of the presidents. I don’t want to make it too much of a gimmick, like all I do is paint on dollars. I’m getting kind of sick of the whole Lady Gaga thing. The old man paintings need to get out there a little.
See more of Craig Gleason’s Gaga dollars (cop your own!) and wrinkly men at his blog, rapeandmurder.blogspot.com.