Boop soup

Pasatiempo - - Art and Photography - Casey Sanchez

Though it sits in an adobe build­ing just a cou­ple of blocks from the Plaza, Pop Gallery hangs the sort of un­der­ground low­brow and pop sur­re­al­ist art as­so­ci­ated with ware­house shows in Los An­ge­les or high-end tat­too shops in South Florida. The gallery ex­hibits the work of artists steeped in the bright-light street aes­thet­ics of hot-rod and tat­too cul­ture or drawn to the freaks-and-geeks caprices of vinyl toys and Betty Boop car­toons. Many of the gallery’s artists de­vel­oped their tal­ents far out­side fine-art cir­cles, in­stead build­ing their tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise through work in Hollywood an­i­ma­tion, med­i­cal il­lus­tra­tion, tat­too artistry, draw­ings for chil­dren’s books, and skate­board art. On Fri­day, May 21, the gallery opens a new ex­hibit called

Pop Femme Sugar Coated Strange, as part of an an­nual show that show­cases its fe­male artists.

“We coined the term ‘ pop mod­ern.’ It’s not just low­brow; it’s not just sur­re­al­ism; it’s not whim­si­cal,” said Shyla Throck­mor­ton-McDow­ell, who op­er­ates the gallery along­side her hus­band, Michael McDow­ell. What­ever the term, the gallery’s of­fer­ings teem with the sort of high-en­ergy, street-in­spired pop art of­ten found in Jux­tapoz and Hi Fruc­tose, two key mag­a­zines that chron­i­cle the low­brow move­ment.

To any­one raised on comic books, sci-fi, graf­fiti cul­ture, manga, graphic nov­els, horror films, and Adult Swim an­i­ma­tion, it should come as a wel­come sign of over­due re­spect to see these works hang­ing on gallery walls. Like many work­ing in the low­brow genre, sev­eral of the show’s artists ditched art school and came by their tech­ni­cal mas­tery of draw­ing and il­lus­tra­tion via other routes. Lisa Sarto worked as an an­i­ma­tor on Avatar and

How to Train Your Dragon. Miss Mindy is an an­i­ma­tor on the set of Nick­elodeon’s The Mighty B!, a show co-cre­ated by Amy Poehler of Satur­day Night Live. Marie Sena is a tat­too artist who has drawn body parts and or­gan sys­tems as a med­i­cal il­lus­tra­tor. C.J. Met­zger is well known as a de­signer of ur­ban vinyl toys, ac­tion fig­ures whose style bor­rows heav­ily from hip-hop cul­ture and Ja­panese street art.

One of the stand­out artists of the ex­hi­bi­tion is Au­nia Kahn. A self-taught artist, Kahn cre­ates paint­ing col­lage pho­tos that look like haunt­ing film stills from 1950s sci-fi and noir movies. She is the model for nearly all of her works, ap­pear­ing as a goth-vamp-rock­a­billy an­ti­heroine. De­spite the provoca­tive the­atri­cal­ity of her work, Kahn said in an in­ter­view with

Pasatiempo that her work is nakedly au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal. “My life felt like a damn cin­ema grow­ing up. I had a SWAT team at my house grow­ing up. The first two years I ex­hib­ited my work, I cried like a lit­tle baby. You might as well take a pri­vate jour­nal and plas­ter it on the wall and let 50 peo­ple go see it. They know ev­ery­thing about you.” Kahn re­cently cre­ated a deck of tarot cards, il­lus­trat­ing all 78 ma­jor and mi­nor ar­cana in stun­ning pop-sur­re­al­ist set­tings. Copies of her tarot deck are on sale at the ex­hibit.

An­other fea­tured artist is Car­rie Ann Baade, who works less in the vein of low­brow and more in the tra­di­tion of sur­re­al­ism. Her oil paint­ing Our Lady of Per­pet­ual In­dul­gence is a deca­dent romp, fea­tur­ing a pre­pos­ter­ously en­dowed (per­haps sur­gi­cally so) woman bathing in a gold tub with a gag­gle of baby pink ele­phants. Draw­ing heav­ily on the gods, demons, and mon­sters of world mythol­ogy, Baade cre­ates ro­coco im­ages rich in al­le­gor­i­cal mean­ing. In one paint­ing of her Van­i­tas of the Honey

Bee se­ries, a bird clutches an hour­glass in its claws, look­ing scorn­fully at a la­dy­bug whose head has been re­placed by a hu­man skull.

The work of Kris­ten Mar­giotta is heav­ily in­flu­enced by di­rec­tor Tim Bur­ton’s wide-eyed gothic style of an­i­ma­tion. Mar­giotta il­lus­trated the chil­dren’s book Bet­ter Haunted Homes and Gar­dens,

pub­lished last year. It is a whim­si­cal Hal­loween tale of real es­tate, in which Ivy Spook­er­ton, a ghostly yet adorable young lady, seeks the per­fect haunted house in which to live with her many pets. While the text is aimed squarely at grade-school chil­dren, the dark quirk­i­ness of the haunted houses will ap­peal to those who watched The Night­mare Be­fore Christ­mas when they were younger. The gallery shows Mar­giotta’s orig­i­nal oil-on-board works that she painted for the book.

Sculp­ture tends to be an un­der­rep­re­sented medium in pop sur­re­al­ism. Lisa Sar­tor reme­dies that de­fi­ciency with bronze pre-cast clay mod­els of pin-up cowgirls re­clin­ing on split­tim­ber fences and rid­ing me­chan­i­cal bulls. Sar­tor spent years work­ing in the spe­cial-ef­fects de­part­ments of movie stu­dios as well as cre­at­ing toy pro­to­types.

Some of the show’s most fan­ci­ful works come from an artist known sim­ply as Miss Mindy. Be­side be­ing an an­i­ma­tor for Nick­elodeon, she is also a vinyl toy artist. Miss Mindy takes de­light in throw­back whimsy. She re­cently com­piled her wood­cut paint­ings of tarted-up paper dolls into a book called Miss

Mindy’s Sassy Paper Doll Bo­nanza. The orig­i­nal paint­ings from the book are on dis­play at the Pop Femme show. The ex­hibit also fea­tures work by her sis­ter, C.J. Met­zger. Met­zger shares many of her sis­ter’s aes­thet­ics, delv­ing even fur­ther into the fan­tasy genre of elves and imps. She il­lus­trated the chil­dren’s book Princess La La & The Lit­tle Bee.

Santa Fe na­tive Marie Sena uses a brac­ing biker-car­ni­val style to cre­ate wa­ter­col­ors so deeply sat­u­rated in color that they look like tat­toos. “I think that some peo­ple have the mis­con­cep­tion that water­color has to be trans­par­ent and bil­lowy,” Sena said in an email in­ter­view from Spain, where she is on a month-long tat­too-artist res­i­dency. “I build up my paint­ings with many, many lay­ers of water­color, which gives it a rich­ness and more of an opaque feel. I also make my own gesso from a very old recipe that ab­sorbs water­color paint per­fectly.”

With a de­gree in med­i­cal il­lus­tra­tion, Sena com­bines her knowl­edge of hu­man anatomy with a flair for the bizarre. Her paint­ing The Morn­ing Af­ter ... (part of a dip­tych that also in­cludes The Night Be­fore ...) is a com­i­cal take on the “bearded ladies” of cir­cus-freak shows. Much of her work seems to con­jure up the spir­its of Pop­eye and P.T. Bar­num — she uses flam­boy­antly col­ored im­ages of leopard-skin-suit-wear­ing weight lifters, top-hat­ted pel­i­cans, and be­lea­guered sailors trapped in­side the bel­lies of whales. “I also tend to live in the past with my paint­ings. I have a real affin­ity for old sea tales, vin­tage hair­dos, an­cient folk­lore, myth­i­cal crea­tures,” Sena said. “I can re­mem­ber look­ing through my great-grandpa’s col­lec­tion of Life mag­a­zines from the ’ 30s and be­ing com­pletely trans­fixed by the rich­ness and com­po­si­tion of the il­lus­tra­tions.”

Though the show opens Fri­day, May 21, the open­ing gala party doesn’t take place un­til Satur­day, May 29. Works by ex­hibit­ing artists, along with ad­di­tional items, will be raf­fled off; the pro­ceeds ben­e­fit South­west CARE Cen­ter, a New Mex­ico HIV/AIDS out­reach group. Miss Mindy will also be on hand, mak­ing draw­ings of clients who pre-pay for a half-hour ses­sion.

Au­nia Kahn: Amer­i­can Po­lit­i­cal, painted photo col­lage on can­vas, 20 x 24 inches

Car­rie Ann Baade: Our Lady of Per­pet­ual In­dul­gence, 2010, oil on panel, 18 x 12 inches

Marie Sena: Saztec, gi­clée on can­vas, 16 x 20 inches

Miss Mindy: God­dess 1, mixed me­dia on paper, 40 x 15 inches

Kris­ten Mar­giotta: Il­lus­tra­tion #2 (Ivy Spook­er­ton), 2009, oil on board, 8.75 x 9 inches

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