An Interview with the Inventor of Chicle-Pop Art

California-based artist Ruben Dario Villa created a Frida Kahlo portrait out of 4,587 pieces of gum in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for largest chewing gum mosaic. As Frida fans and gum fanatics, the Simply Gum team interviewed Villa to get the scoop.


Describe chicle-pop for us.

Chicle-pop is pop art that can actually pop. It’s catchy and kitchy. I think what attracted me to Chicle-pop is that my work will mean most to those of us who get it, those who have an attachment to the subject AND the medium. It’s important for me to do this type of art because I hope it can help lift and heal my community by saying, “You are worthy of art that speaks primarily to you. Art that speaks your language. Art that is made for you. Ánimo!" 

You said your work with pixels as a visual designer inspired you to use chiclets as an artistic medium. How long have you been thinking of creating a work of art out of gum? 

My artwork lately has revolved around Mexican candy or little things I remember from my childhood. My skill has never really been in painting my ideas (as evidenced by the many unfinished paintings I have in my garage) but by intersecting a memory with a medium that accentuates the nostalgic nature of my work. I had been toying with the idea of using chicle as a medium for a little while. 

How did you keep track of the exact number of chiclets you used?

Having the digital version of Frida4587 helped me keep track. To be honest, I think in a perfect world my piece has 4587 chiclets. I won’t worry about the exact count until I hear back from the Guinness World Record committee. 

Do you chew gum regularly? Were you tempted to chew the chiclets as you were crafting Frida4587? 

My mom never let us have much candy or soda growing up. That’s probably why I developed a sweet-tooth as an adult. As a kid, I remember my dad’s night stand drawers smelling like double mint gum and loose change. I would grab loose sticks of gum when they weren’t around and practice blowing bubbles. Mama Chuy, my grandmother, chews gum every night before she goes to bed. I guess you can say there is a lineage of gum-chewing in my family. So, there was no way I couldn’t go back there while I was creating Frida4587. I don’t think I stopped chewing gum for 4 days straight. Beer and gum. That’s what got me through the all-nighters. 

You also are the founder and CEO of Fúchila Fresheners, an artisanal air freshener business. In your point of view, what’s the importance of having fresh air (and breath)? 

My mom raised me to recycle and reuse before it was trendy. It’s a way of life for me and it will be for my kids too. I wish for us, my daughter and generations to come to be able to enjoy fresh, clean air. I think it’s hard to find anyone in disagreement with that statement.  On a lighter note, a smelly car and mouth are in bad taste. Pun intended. Get your priorities straight and take care of it.