At the Metro grocery store in Liberty Village, on February 26, anyone who walked down the produce aisle at just the right moment would have seen something out of a Koopa Troopa’s worst nightmares: an entire container of Super Mario–style super mushrooms, on sale for $2.29. (Which is a ridiculously low price, considering the fact that you normally have to spend hours head-bonking coin boxes to get those things in bulk.)
The cheerful-looking ‘shrooms—made not of magical fungus, but of Crayola modelling foam—are the work of Aiden Glynn, a local character designer and animator who does street art on the side. He put his creations inside an empty mushroom container, wrapped them with plastic to make them look as though they were for sale, and then left them on the shelf for anyone to find.
Glynn, who is 29, has a day job with Corus Entertainment, where he works on children’s shows like Scaredy Squirrel and Sidekick. About a year and a half ago, he began experimenting with installing some of his own art on Toronto’s streets, the way countless others have before him.
About six months into the project, he noticed a barrel sitting on a sidewalk in front of a Bay Street pub, just crying out for some kind of modification. Glynn mocked up a “DK” logo and stuck it to the side, making the barrel look exactly like something out of Donkey Kong Country, a series of three Super Nintendo games, the first of which was released in 1994.
After that, other game-related street art followed. On the outsides of several downtown buildings, Glynn has artfully installed temporary, stick-on images of characters both well known and obscure. (Click through the gallery, above, to see some examples.) All of them take advantage of their surroundings in ways that blur the line between game and reality.
According to Glynn, scouting out workable locations is a big part of the process. “I would say 90 per cent of where they show up is basically on my path to work,” he said. “When I’m walking in Toronto, I’m always looking around, trying to find little things.”
He focuses on game-related art because people seem to respond to it, though he’s not sure exactly why they do. “I think it’s nostalgia, you know?” he said. “A lot of people who grew up in the ’80s and early ’90s played Nintendo. They remember the game and they remember the characters, and they like seeing it in a new kind of context.”
He’s hoping that his creations don’t run afoul of Nintendo’s copyright enforcers because he wants to publish a book with photos of his work someday.
As for the mushrooms, Glynn doesn’t know what became of them. “I would hope someone would find them and get a kick out of them,” he said. “I would just hate for some grumpy employee to chuck them in the garbage right away, which is probably what happened.”