It is safe to assume at this point that school pictures are off this year. Good riddance, some may say, with their dull sameness. School pictures lack the kind of creative expression that is commonplace now with the ubiquity of camera phones and a youth culture of perpetual self-documentation and curation. A relic of a different time valued only by dusty grandmothers, the era of school pictures may have already been behind us without the interference of a global, school-shuttering pandemic. But in the world of Ally Burke, school pictures are reimagined, much like Nirvana reimaged the pep rally.
Burke’s Phantom Phases, now on exhibit at the Stranger Factory, is a series of surreal portraits she created during quarantine. They are straightforward like school pictures; just the head and shoulders, maybe a smile, but these are the freaky kids in class. Dark and extra creepy, they are little nightmares suitable for framing. While the paintings are petite (“Knowledge is Sour” is 5” x 7”), I could easily imagine them as wallet-size prints, carefully cut apart from a sheet of eight and handed out to relatives at Thanksgiving. Just look at how our little monster has grown! Phantom Phases is an exceptional series worth seeing by appointment or online from the ever-evolving work of Ally Burke.
On a sad note, the Stranger Factory recently announced that they will be closing their Nob Hill location at the end of August. They are relocating to a large spread in Algodones with the intent to host visiting artists and continue the gallery side of their operations. All the best to them in their future endeavors. I look forward to taking the drive north when they are ready to show what they have become.