Thrift store art — I think you know what I mean. Those sappy landscapes and bad still-life paintings. I bought one just for the frame once, and quickly discarded the Cezanne knock-off inside. Turns out I should have donated it to CLAW.
The Cartoonists League of Absurd Washingtonians, like all cartoonists, love artistically turning things on their heads, and their latest exploit is a thrift-store-art show in the Tacoma Community College library foyer that’ll have you laughing out loud.
Why? Because they’ve peopled those sappy landscapes with hilariously creative monsters, playing with color and scale and generally turning bad art into extremely funny art.
Many of these monsters rise out of large blank patches of water — tempting for any cartoonist, surely. There’s Mark Monlux’s Tiki monster, wading ashore through azure waves to a tropical island. Like an Easter island statue come to life, he’s grimacing fiercely, blazing fire from the top of his head that Monlux has also daubed orange and red into the treetops.
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Mark Brill plants a Tyrannosaurus Rex into a stormy ocean. He’s way taller than the jagged cliffs, and he’s obviously just set a castle on fire with his breath, surveying his work with a satisfied grin.
Other water monsters abound (although with no labels they’re hard to attribute): a slime-green figure with devil wings and an octopus mouth, a stealthy pink dragon peeking out of a farmyard pond at two unsuspecting children who look like they were added by the CLAW artist. Monlux has another T-rex, this time menacing London’s Houses of Parliament in silhouette against a sunset-golden Thames. To a rushing river in an evergreen (Northwest?) forest, Jennevieve Schlemmer has added a giant Pacific octopus, head down and tentacles flailing, with intricate detail. On the opposite wall she’s placed a spherical purple monster with one central eye and 10 more on stalks admiring his reflection in a desert mirage — the ultimate imaginary scenario.
Other paintings have the same hijacking humor: a giant green witch looming cackling over a cottage that the artist has transformed into highly-decorated gingerbread, with Hansel and Gretel innocently walking toward it. A snowy scene with elks has tall horned shadows haunting the forest; there’s a Death Rabbit in a placid green meadow; and there’s a huge bizarre wind-up toy cooling its pipe feet in a pond next to a blasé fisherman — signed R/R (Anderson?) and tagged Shuckface, in a joke most Tacomans will appreciate.
It’s not just the fun contrast of vivid saturated acrylics on bland oils, or the cartoon plot. With “Thrift Store Art,” Tacoma’s CLAW members highlight the blandness of bad art and the imagination that can transform it.
CLAW Thrift Store Art show
Where: Tacoma Community College library, Building 7 (south end of campus), 6501 S. 19th St., Tacoma.
When: 7:15 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 7:15 a.m.-5 p.m. Fridays through December. Closed Friday (Nov. 11) for Veterans Day.