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Modern Monsters

Seasonal exhibit challenges ideas of evil

 by Jamar Younger
 published on Thursday, October 26, 2006

This photo collage depicts a starving African child wearing on of Paris Hilton’s skirts and carrying her dog. /issues/arts/698496
Photo courtesy of Landy Headley
This photo collage depicts a starving African child wearing on of Paris Hilton’s skirts and carrying her dog.
 
Headley’s work in the “Monster’s Menagerie” exhibit at The Alwun House depicts an African tribe with Starbucks cups. /issues/arts/698496
Photo courtesy of Landy Headley
Headley’s work in the “Monster’s Menagerie” exhibit at The Alwun House depicts an African tribe with Starbucks cups.
 

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A malnourished African child wears one of Paris Hilton's skirts while caressing her dog. Alice Cooper stares at you wide-eyed while holding a cross. A red gargoyle poses while holding two lit candles.

These are just a few of the images from the "Monsters Menagerie" art exhibit on display at the Alwun House (1204 E. Roosevelt St., Phoenix).

The free exhibit celebrates the spirit of Halloween by displaying and selling artwork that shows traditional monstrosities and less obvious (but just as nefarious) aspects of everyday society.

"It's seasonal and an opportunity to take a look at the less apparent evils," says Alwun House founder and board president Kim Moody. "There are evil elements playing around us everyday."

The evils portrayed in the exhibit range from paper-mache gargoyles and deformed monster faces to mixed-media art photos combining American greed with third world hunger.

The exhibit opened on Oct.13 and will run through Nov. 3, the same day as the First Friday artwalk in downtown Phoenix.

The artists and the public will celebrate the exhibit and Halloween on Oct. 28 with a "Monsters Ball" costume art party at the Alwun House.

The 14 artists who participated in the show had various inspirations for their pieces of art.

A near-death experience motivated artist Larry Lopresti to create paper-mache images of gargoyles. He says he inhaled some pesticide or herbicide and it put him in a coma for three days. He saw the grotesque figures while he was in the coma, but it was not some type of nightmare where they were trying to harm him.

"I saw these little creatures keeping me from the angel of death," he says.

Despite their appearance, gargoyles aren't evildoers - they're protectors, he says. "Gargoyles are guardians to keep bad things from coming out of hell and good things from going in."

Even though this experience had a profound impact on his work, he is not trying to send any morbid messages to his audience. "I want the public to have a good time, see art they would not usually see," he says.

This is the seventh year that the Alwun House has hosted the show. Lopresti founded the exhibit along with six other artists because he did not see any galleries in the Valley displaying artwork dedicated to Halloween.

Landy Headley started displaying her work in October 2004, right before the last presidential election. Headley has been the only artist to mix political and social themes into her work.

Headley's travels to countries such as Guatemala, Mexico and Vietnam have inspired her to challenge American materialism through her work.

"I like the reassurance of going to Vietnam and seeing people who don't need their iPods," she says.

Some of Headley's mixed-media art includes a photo of a jungle tribe wearing loin cloths and drinking Starbucks, a catholic priest shaking hands with two homosexuals while all three fantasize about men and the malnourished African child dressed in Paris Hilton attire.

"I love America, but I just want to open people's eyes a little bit more," she says.

The Pulp Art of the 1930s and 1940s influenced the artwork of J.T. Sikorski, who incorporated the bright colors commonly associated with the genre into his digital photos.

Unlike Headley, Sikorski is not trying to convey a message with his art. "It's not like I have some hidden political agenda," he says. "I am trying to create things that the average 20-year-old would love."

Sikorski uses action figure toys for his digital photos and he stencils the background using organic materials. He uses everything from tree limbs to car parts in his photographs. His work is a combination of gore and eroticism.

The action figures in his work, including the one of Alice Cooper, are often confused for real people, he says.

Sikorski and the other artists say the Alwun House is a perfect venue for this type of exhibit because it features art that would not be displayed in other galleries.

"It's a really good venue for non-mainstream art that won't fit into Scottsdale," he says.

Moody founded the Alwun House in 1971 because he wanted to have a place where the arts could meet at one place. "Some people, like poets, think they're the best, and painters have the same attitude," he says. But at the Alwun house, they're both prominent.

The two-story bungalow features an open-air stage for performances and brightly colored flowers adorn the courtyard. Artwork is displayed inside the house.

Moody says the spirit of Halloween is deeper than costumes and images of monsters. Halloween is the season of death, he says.

"Trees are falling (and) leaves are dying," he adds. "It's a ritualistic opportunity to release that evil."



Reach the reporter at jamar.younger@asu.edu"



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