‹‹ V.20 No.50 | December 15 - 21, 2011
Stranger Factory’s Winter Salon is like an adorable nightmare
Vexadorae by Jon Mcnair
It's beckoningly grotesque, mischievously menacing and intriguingly oddball. That would be Stranger Factory's Winter Salon
, host to the work of about two dozen artists, both local and international. Gallery owners Kathie Olivas and Brandt Peters say the exhibit is more broad-spectrum than past offerings. "This show was about affordability, accessibility and introductions, and also a holiday show," says Peters. In addition, it’s a way to expose emerging artists to the cultish following of collectors of creepy toy-art. The husband-and-wife duo say this demographic has helped make the gallery a global name. (Case in point: Its December show from artists Chris Ryniak and Amanda Louise Spayd sold out in a day, largely through online sales to foreign markets.)
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“Melvin” by Ryan Friant
The salon is housed in a large showroom, added since the gallery’s opening in May. Much of the work here, and continuously on display at the Factory, are resin sculptures of ghoulish, reptilian and space-age creatures. Olivas and Peters, along with their decade-old artist collective, Circus Posterus, work with sculptors and casting houses to get editions of these strange beings, which are then hand-painted by CP artists. The reigning vibe is very 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.
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Skelves by Rob Schwager and Brandt Peters
Those critters also take form in other mediums at the show. Some of the more interesting incarnations come from Midwestern artist 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.
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Curious No. 7 by Jon Macnair
Then there's the mixed-media sculptures of local artist 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