The Creep Machine is happy to announce a new guest writer, China Blue. Living in New York, China has the ability to check out some of the amazing exhibitions that open up there, and give the readers of this site a proper full-fledged review. Here we go:
Saturday, August 10th didn’t officially begin until nightfall when I arrived at the Last Rites Gallery’s opening for “New Breed II”, a group show including artists Patrick Deignan, Mark Elliot, Steve Ellis, John Cebollero, Angie Mason, Natalie Shau, Celeste Rapone, Jasmine Worth and Leslie Ditto. I had been absent from the New York art scene for two years while traveling, and I was more than excited to be coming back to one of my favorite galleries. Last Rites never skimps on ambiance – not from the dripping candles, the blood-red curtains or the all-black attire of the hosts. Stepping out of the elevator on the third floor, I always feel as though I have crossed the threshold into another, more sinister world. The title “NewBreed II” denotes that many of the artists had never before shown at Last Rites and all were encouraged to explore a darker side of themselves and produce work with a more morbid or grotesque spin.
This wasn’t difficult for Lithuanian artist Natalie Shau, whose photography and digital media images gave a disturbing reality to her delicate, demonic young women. Leslie Ditto’s oil paintings also stood out to me for her great characters. In Toys in the Attic, a doddering old man in an argyle sweater-vest sits with a cigarette and a cup of coffee that spells out most of the word PROZAC on the side as he stares vacantly at something in front of him. Presumably the drug has eradicated any bothersome thoughts and a jack-in-the-box clown emerges from the top of his cranium. Ditto is known for her social, political and religious commentary in her work.
Jasmine Worth’s pieces were definitely the least spectacular of the whole show. But her work is not made to be spectacular. She invokes a quiet serenity that one can’t quite feel comfortable with since the wide, flat faces staring at you with such tranquility from her paintings are either floating, eyeless, conjoined, or all of the above. I was a bit disappointed though that she did not take the encouragement of the Last Rites gallery and try something a little different, a little darker than her usual work. In fact, two of her three pieces are almost exact replicas of other works. I know she likes to paint in a series and really explore an idea or a theme, but it would have been nice to see something new, as the title of the show encouraged.
Luckily, I was able to ask the three artists in attendance, Angie Mason, Mark Elliot and John Cebollero a few questions about their work and their creative processes. Angie Mason looked quite in character for the show with serpentine lace stockings, a black dress, and a plume of red feather in her hair. She was most passionate when discussing her work and where she derives her ideas, which are all inspired by deeply personal experiences, transmuted through her characters into more universally understood themes. She gets many of her ideas from writing and hinted at a wish to create an art book with both her images and her own writing. We can’t wait Angie! I noted that her painting Momentary Lapse of Living had little gems here and there which are impossible to appreciate from the images online (This is why you need to see it in person people!) and asked her to explain why she used them. “I call it my Horror Glam” she tells me. “I like to create things grotesque and disgusting, but beautiful at the same time”. She then draws attention to her self-made Chicken Heart Bone earrings which have the same little princess-pink gems molded into … a chicken heart bone. If you would like to see Angie in time-lapse videos double-fisting paintbrushes to create both Dealt Hand and Tightrope walker (Teetering), you can check them out here and here respectively.
Just before the show, I was told by a friend of Mark Elliot’s to ask Mark about the frogs which he incorporates in many of his paintings. So Mark, what about the frogs? “I have a home in upstate New York and I am lulled to sleep every night by the sound of the frogs outside my window”. So there you have it folks. Mark is actually influenced by the amphibians themselves while he slumbers. His painting Playmate features the severed head of a frog hovering over a playground sandbox and sporting a fez. The image was “inspired by Last Rites’ request for darker subject matter”. To Mark Elliot, “darker” meant the cruelty of children at a playground torturing insects and small animals without remorse. The frog’s head drips blood onto the sandbox for the amusement of the absent, but implied children. When asked how he comes up with the titles for his work, Mark says they mostly come after the painting is finished and sometimes he will put the image on Facebook and ask for title suggestions, much like those cartoons in the paper that ask you to submit a fitting caption. Then he picks the best one and uses that.
John Cebollero’s vibrant hues and attention to detail arrested my sight immediately. The pinks and blues in his painting America gave me a slightly sick feeling, like going on a carnival ride after eating way too much cotton candy. John explained that America is a commentary on “America’s obsession with youth and beauty. You see these reality shows on plastic surgery and such. Looks aren’t everything and women get the worst of it”. Only Women Bleed, titled after an Alice Cooper song, follows this idea of women being more vulnerable than men. I love the little detail he painted on the side of the frame and the flat, polished look John gets with acrylic paint on board. For John, painting is a way of chronicling a personal view or feeling. When it comes to negative subjects, it is not about solving a problem, but rather expressing his stress instead of keeping it inside. “My art keeps me sane” he says. When I look at the images he comes up with, I find that statement ironic.
It is regrettable that the other artists were unable to make the opening, but the show is marvelous and I highly recommend you dropping by if you are in the Manhattan area anytime from now until August 29th.
- China Blue