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.