Former Devo member, composer and artist Mark Mothersbaugh conjures up the kind of imagery that would make little kids have nightmares. Even bigger kids—myself included. His exhibit, "Beautiful Mutants," takes us to creepy locales, made even more eerie by their bizarre, yet perfectly balanced, split symmetry. It's all a little too perfect—and also the kind of stuff you see in, well, nightmares.
The facial expressions themselves are reminiscent of Daguerreotype photography, back when folks had to sit for ages while their images were burned into immortality and mirror-polished surfaces of silver, more often than not resulting in—yup, you guessed it—creepy, ghostly photographs.
The art of Mothersbaugh reminds me of the classic film, Sunset Boulevard. The main character, Norma Desmond, a former silent-film star fallen from grace, is trapped in her own fairy-tale world. And then there's her huge mansion—the dim lighting, the layers upon layers of dust and the fact that absolutely nothing has been rearranged for years. Pasty-faced butlers who look as though they just crawled from the grave float about in silence. Mothersbaugh's mutants would've felt right at home there.
And not unlike Sunset's bizarre monkey-funeral scene, Mothersbaugh gives us what appears to be a taxidermied bear to ponder. There's also the cone-shaped figure of a girl who looks like she's either trying to squeeze her way out of the bear's belly or draw you back inside as you stare transfixed into her sunken, empty eyeballs—unnerving!
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So, "Beautiful Mutants"? It's basically kickknacks for days meets The Others. It's also similar to that arts and crafts project you loved so much as a kid—you know, the one where you folded a piece of paper (however many times ) and cut little shapes out of the folds, opening it to reveal a neat little design, identical on either side—and then later that evening you asked to sleep in your parents' room because you saw something scary. Yup, kid. You've quite the imagination.
"Beautiful Mutants" by Mark Mothersbaugh at CSUF Grand Central Art Center. 125 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (714) 567.7233; www.grandcentralartcenter.com. Tues.-Thurs. & Sun., 11-4 p.m; Fri.-Sat., 11-9p.m. Closed Mon. Thru Oct. 21.
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