MOTLEY CREW Carnival Kids Series #1.
"It's like getting to run away into a photograph," Corey Grayhorse tells me of her photos. "If I built it I could go there."
The photos exhibited in "Artificial Memories" at Craftland (235 Westminster St, Providence, through April 6) depict amazing wonderlands of Rainbow Brite colors, vivid patterns, fashion and masks, cute kids, svelte ladies, and the occasional nightmare wolf.
In her pictures, a clown and kids dash across a snowy field or a lady and a giant bunny eat breakfast in bed. A kid marauds around a room on a hobbyhorse as the babysitter screams. A crowned Madonna is surrounded by a court that seems part masked lucha libre wrestlers, part skull-faced calaveras from the Day of the Dead. Green- and bronze-haired ladies push each other around a laundry mat in carts. A group of wigged characters line up alongside a striped carnival tent. A veiled woman holds a child wearing a Mickey Mouse mask in her lap, like some bizarre Madonna and child scene.
"It's sexual. It's fashion. It's cartoon. It's fairy tale. It's happy. It's sad. It's scary," the 32-year-old Cranston resident says.
"It didn't really hit me that I wanted to shoot this way until about six years ago," Grayhorse explains. "I just kind of hit this wall in my life where I was really bored with this reality. I was a bit sad" from being away from where she grew up. "I was having all these wonderful dreams. And I had a bad breakup with a friend . . . And I just wanted to escape from a lot of shit in life that really weighs me down."
She grew up in Venice, California, and studied for three years at a community college in Santa Monica, where she began photographing in color, but left before graduating, and moved to Providence in 2001.
Her living comes mainly from commercial photography — portraits, fashion, lifestyle, products, some editorial, and boudoir photography for Providence Pinup. "It's like a Sears [portrait] session, but not," Grayhorse notes.
CHEERFUL CHORE Laundry Ladies.
In the coming months, she's scheduled to exhibit at the RISD Museum, Candita Clayton Studio in Pawtucket, and DNJ Gallery in Los Angeles. And this week, she's a new contributor to the Phoenix.
Grayhorse's art photo of a giant white bunny with monster fangs and sharp claws (played by Katerina Pedersen) lurking behind a little girl (played by Pedersen's then 3-year-old daughter Katia) reading in a white, high-backed chair in a neat living room recently made the front page of Reddit — you know, "the front page of the internet."
"What I'm trying to get the viewer to see is when things seem scary they're not because there's a softer side to them, a funner side to them," Grayhorse says. "I think the monsters are looking for that happy place . . . The darkness and the monsters are coming into place because they need that."
She stages her scenes at her home, friends' homes, the Dirt Palace in Olneyville, a local bodega with a great fruit display, and other businesses. She imagines a world that is more bright and spectacular, where the sensations are more powerful, where the monsters are more obvious. For a while, she primarily shot with lots of studio lighting, but lately she's been enjoying staging her oddities outdoors, in the natural light of the real world.