Not-So-Starving Artist

Blaine Fontana

Long Beach artist Blaine Fontana is perhaps the clearest proof yet that the lowbrow art world has arrived—in stores. Few artists before him in the genre have arranged to have their work consumed so hungrily, which is not entirely a bad thing: dude has to eat, too. "The Animal Council," his first-ever Orange County solo show, features a host of luminously rendered elephants, walruses, deer and hummingbirds and is on view now in Santa Ana.

And with Citizen Wines of Nice, California, Fontana has inked a deal to produce a limited-edition run of 100 signed bottles—featuring his artwork on their labels, boxed with giclťe Fontana prints. He's designing graphics for Armada Skis in Costa Mesa; he's doing custom BMX and freestyle-bike graphics for FELT; he's creating his own series of limited-edition toys—plus a series of new artwork at Gallery 1988.

But he seems like such a nice guy: he has a cool studio, loves animals and the outdoors, and, when he's not brokering another deal to get his art out there, is genuinely absorbed in the creation. Fontana says he considers his work a "return to the craft." Also, he has a rather extensive arrest record, having been arrested four times before his 21st birthday—it's too perfect.

At 19, Fontana was deported from London International Airport on suspicion that he and a friend were about to spirit a suitcase full of Khat out of the country. The shrub, used by Muslims during the religious month of Ramadan, yields sensations similar to those caused by cocaine or methamphetamine—and is perfectly legal in England. But not here, where you'll have to settle for the head-spinning rush of blood to your head as you admire a Fontana on canvas—or on your ski-bedecked feet.

"The Animal Council" by Blaine Fontana at Scribble Theory, 210 N. Bush St., Santa Ana, (714) 542-5928; www.scribbletheory.com. Open by appointment only. Through March 18.

 
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