How many pounds of tater-tots does it take to make a BYU Magazine cover?
Squint your eyes, look down and rightward, and in breathy Napoleon Dynamite monotone, repeat after me: “It’s incredible.” That about sums up the spring 2018 cover of BYU Magazine.
To commemorate Napoleon Dynamite—the wildly successful indie film written and pulled off by BYU students and alumni—we put the visage of the film’s hero, played by alum Jonathan J. Heder (BFA ’10), on the cover. In tater tots.
The spuddy Napoleon is the handiwork of San Francisco–based mosaic artist Jason Mecier, who is known for creating meticulous portraits of famous people out of food items and knickknacks.
“My favorite thing is picking a pop culture icon and making them out of what fits them best,” says Mecier. In the film, Napoleon stashes tots in his hammer pants to eat stealthily in class. Mecier ranks this Napoleon pretty high in his body of work—“right after Kevin Bacon out of bacon.”
BYU Magazine commissioned the piece, and Mecier set to work with his trusty hot-glue gun. The final art took more than 50 hours, three trips to the grocery store, and 25 pounds of tots.
“It was a really fun medium,” says Mecier, who got a variation of shades to work with by cooking or torching the tots to different levels of “burntness.”
Heck yes he ate a few. “The first batch I ate a couple. . . . Then it just starts looking like art supplies.”
Details like the glasses, nose, and mouth were challenging, says Mecier. “Always the face is the hardest part.”
The final image of the crispy work made it not only to BYU Magazine but last-minute into a coffee table–book collection of Mecier’s work, Pop Trash: The Amazing Art of Jason Mecier, published by Chronicle Books this month.
As for the final art, Mecier still has it in his studio, where he patches it up as tots crumble. “I keep shellacking it. I’m trying to keep it alive as long as I can.” A Napoleon fan himself, he considered sending it to Heder. “If you resin it, it could make a great coffee table or something.”
See photos from the process: