I've always had a thing for folklore and fairy tales -- and no, not the kind where orphaned princesses trill melodically while they toil, aided by cute little rodents.
I mean the darker, unsanitized, not-fit-for-bedtime-stories kind. The pre-Disney versions, where the wicked stepsisters' comeuppance involves having their eyes plucked out by vengeful birds. The kind where stupid little piggies are actually devoured, with sinful relish, by seductively sinister wolves. The kind where young girls wandering alone in the woods discover within themselves a brute savagery to rival their predators'. (Have you ever read any Angela Carter? Oh, but you must.)
So it was with great anticipation that I visited the Anatomy of Folklore show at Oakland's consistently impressive Johansson Projects this weekend.
Though it's a joint show with San Francisco sculptor Lawrence LaBianca, I was there to see the paintings of Portland, Oregon-based Evan B. Harris. (Is it just me, or is Portland a hotbed of interesting art these days?)
In Harris' imagined world, young girls (and a few boys) reside in the bellies of seemingly innocuous woodland creatures, wolves' breath warms innocently sleeping children, tree branches and roots spring from various body parts, whales swallow mermaids whole, and songbirds nest in women's hair (sweet enough, except that the hair is attached to what appears to be a disembodied head).
As his bio says, "Born among the briars and brambles in backwoods of Medford, Oregon, Evan Benjamin Harris ... dove into the recesses of his own imagination and embraced the fables and folklore that fascinated him. Now older, things haven’t changed much. The stories he created as a child are still present in his paintings."
Take a look:
Cuts Keep Growing
The Hare and Her
Hearts, Home Is ...
Birds, Birch, Hands
Tea for Birds
Regiment of the Hive
I'm no art critic -- I confess that I really don't have a clue about the deeper meaning of Harris's work. But I find it oddly beautiful, strangely fascinating, and darkly magical.
And though Harris's original paintings, priced from $475 to $1,450, are just a wee bit out of our budget, I'm happy to report that his work can be enjoyed in more affordable ways as well:
Harris's mural at Portland's Ace Hotel
Belly of the Bears print, $30 at Tiny Showcase
"Birds of a Letter" Stationery Set, $5
The Wurst Gallery Tote Bag, $20
Pssst -- I also hear that Portland's Office PDX store and gallery has a few reasonably priced small pieces left from Harris's last show there. Email the nice folks at Office for more info.
Anatomy of Folklore will be at Johansson Projects through January 5. Click here to see more of Harris's work.