Stranger Factory’s Winter Salon is like an adorable nightmare
By Sam Adams
Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s not exactly reinventing the wheel aesthetically, although the finesse is usually stunning. The creatures have the perfection of assembly-line action figures, assuming that assembly line was on a planetary hybrid of Mars and hell—and situated in a bayou.
Jon MacNair. His small, India-ink-on-paper illustrations are reminiscent of the art seen in old circus freak-show posters. His "Vexadorae" is an exquisite corpse figure with a reptilian body. Its belly is slit open, and out of it coil dumb-eyed snakes, licking their tongues at the air. A spiny dragon head acts like a spur on the beast's tail. It has bat wings, ears made of the same skin, horns and a furry Medieval coif protecting a demonic face that spits forth a serpentine tongue. On top of the creature's head is another head that looks like a dying, leprous old man with tentacled hair and a spike protruding from his skull. The work is elegantly rendered for such a vile offering, and truly vexing.
Ryan Friant. The rough, folk-arty imperfections of these characters are reminiscent of the figures in Dave Borthwick's stop-motion classic The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb. Aside from a deformed take on Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, my favorite is "Melvin," a dead-eyed maroon cat with a turquoise belly and crocodilian teeth. His feet look like Mexican pointy boots, and he has a devil's tail. His three-pronged hand holds a bouquet of white feathers that stem from a cactus-like orb. Melvin is awful cute and cuddly. But if he were alive he'd probably scratch out your eyes and drink milk from the empty sockets.
Friant is one of a handful of locals in the show, and it's comforting to see Stranger Factory bring more nearby talent into the fold as they expand and gain recognition. Several patrons I observed at the exhibit seemed happily taken aback. They were wide-eyed and cackling. They might have been looking into a mirror.
Runs through Jan. 3
109 Carlisle NE
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