Crystals, demons, gnarled trees, muscular men, wizards, misty mountains, eyeballs, snakes, skeletal parts and rainbows in the dark are among the sinister imagery associated with the heavy metal subculture. For decades, alienated boys have holed up in their rooms with pencils and an earful of Black Sabbath, performing ritualistic summonings of these beastly apparitions.
Artists Todd Ryan White and Jack Wesley Schneider are quite familiar with this sacred act, making metally art wherever they can, using a closet or a basement "like a mountainside hideout or a cave of isolation," they say. This week the duo is presenting an exhibit / music series titled DAMNED IF YOU DOOM at Small Engine Gallery.
The pair just finished curating "Brutal Doodle," which had showings in New York and Boston and featured more than twoscore artists. With DAMNED IF YOU DOOM, White and Schneider, who have been collaborating on art and music events for four years, are focusing on their own creative work. Schneider is a Bostonian, and White lives and teaches art in Santa Fe, though he also comes from Boston. White is Small Engine Gallery's first artist-in-residence.
"When you see a metal band, you get the sense of something primal and mystical lurking just out of sight," explains White in an email. "I want my art-making process to have all the same trappings and effects as a doom metal band: lights, fog, a wall of noise."
White's drawings and sculptures posses a distinct feeling of vintage metal or old fantasy paperbacks. Schneider's work meanwhile seems to embrace the brighter, more cartoonish side of metal imagery that emerged in the ’80s and was entangled with punk and skater cultures. The artists say the show is intentionally filled with humor—they aim to air out the subculture's dirty laundry.
The show also features an installation called "Merch Cave," which White and Schneider describe as a show within a show. It contains curated band merchandise from more than 20 artists. "Buying merch has always been an important part of the live music experience," says White. "The Internet has made the music easy to download, but viewing a band's merch table remains a unique and irreplaceable experience." Merch in the “Merch Cave” will be available for purchase.
DAMNED IF YOU DOOM opens on Friday with a performance by Santa Fe doom metal trio Drought. Metal performances each weekend in February at Small Engine Gallery are to follow. Expect the exhibit/series to be almost as mesmerizing as a John Bonham solo, bitchin’ as the first time you heard Number of the Beast and dazzling as Manowar’s pyrotechnics.