Some lasting impressions

Visions seared into our eyeballs in 2013
By GREG COOK  |  December 24, 2013

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FERAL CRACKLE An untitled work by Zacchilli from "X-TRA ZEUS!"

From dandy fashion and My Little Pony to anxious machines and a shrine for the dead, art around Providence both dazzled and intrigued in 2013. The RISD Musum’s fashion curators again demonstrated their awesome talent. Yellow Peril Gallery and 186 Carpenter came into their own. Craftland and AS220 continued to excel. And the thoughtful gallery Grin debuted. Below is a list of the best art seen around Rhode Island this year.

Providence’s comics talent was particularly evident in 2013. “X-TRA ZEUS! New Comics & Drawings” at World’s Fair at Pawtucket’s Machines With Magnets in February showcased cartoonists like Katrina Silander Clark, Brian Chippendale and Mickey Zacchilli who draw weirdo, feral, personal, punk, outsider, sci-fi shenanigans. In October, Chris Kilduff exhibited scuzzy, barbed and vaguely disreputable punk comic parables. “Story/Line: Narrative Form in Six Graphic Novelists” at Rhode Island College’s Bannister Gallery in February took a national look at comics with work by Gabrielle Bell in New York, Karl Stevens in Boston, and others.

Green parakeets perched in the racks of dueling moose and snarling wild dogs roamed a marsh at low tide in New York photographer Simen Johan ’s “Until the Kingdom Comes” at Brown University’s Bell Gallery in February. Like scenes out of fairy tales or apocalyptic Hollywood action epics, their special effects crackled with mythic resonance.

In Corey Grayhorse ’s “Artificial Memories” photos at Craftland in March, a clown and kids dashed across a snowy field or a lady and a giant bunny ate breakfast in bed. The Providence artist once again demonstrated her knack for conjuring wonderlands of Rainbow Brite colors, fashion and masks, cute kids, svelte ladies, and nightmare wolves.

At Pawtucket’s Candita Clayton Gallery in May, Providence artist Xander Marro ’s exhibited puppet dioramas including a lady in a fur-trimmed white cape dropping a glittery cinderblock onto a giant white tarantula wearing Mary Janes. They were prickly fairytale scenes in which women didn’t wait to be rescued but got on with confronting their strange animal avatars.

Jacqueline Frole ’s “Family Room” in the lobby of AS220’s Mercantile Block in May altered found fashion photos to give people extra lips, heads, and limbs. She continued these mutations via a rocking chair with two backs, a twinned wall lamp, and four-armed teddy bears. Your eyes didn’t quite want to believe it was real, but the physical evidence kept tripping you into a wondrous dream world.

“Artist/Rebel/Dandy: Men of Fashion” at the RISD Museum last summer plumbed two centuries of fashion — including attire worn by Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, Fred Astaire and Patti Smith — as it asked: What does it mean to be a man? The show was as sumptuous as it was smart, and demonstrated once again that the fashion curators at the Providence museum — in this case Kate Irvin and Laurie Brewer — are among the world leaders in their field.

A commission to illustrate My Little Pony: Under the Sparkling Sea, unleashed Barrington artist Mary Jane Begin ’s visual invention and electric rainbow-bright feel for color. It was all on view at Newport’s National Museum of American Illustration last summer, as she depicted the Ponies’ bedazzled, girly, undersea land.

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