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Culture » Arts & Entertainment

Insect Love

There’s nothing dry and academic about the visual art of literature professor Brian Kubarycz.



A lot of artists provoke discussions about their body of work, but an upcoming exhibition debuts pictures that take the somatic as their subject like few locals working today. Brian Kubarycz has over the last several years accumulated a portfolio that is primed for viewing now and, while not pulling any punches, still manages to intrigue and surprise.


He arrived at painting through an indirect route, as a sidestep from his studies of literature. Kubarycz has been studying and teaching for more than 10 years at the University of Utah, where he earned a Ph.D. in English literature (creative writing) and an MFA in creative writing. He is an associate instructor in the honors program at the U, where he has been recognized with the Distinguished Honors Professor of the Year, Tanner Fellowship in the Humanities, and the Steffenson-Cannon Scholarship in the Humanities awards. In addition, he is working on another Ph.D. from the University of Washington and publishing fiction.


He was writing a novel about art students for a dissertation in 2003 and says, “I wanted to know what I was talking about.” He met Ben Duke, then a student of his and visited his studio. Pretty soon Kubarycz had his own studio at Poor Yorick and took classes with noted local artist Brad Slaugh, who operates the studios. “The best part,” Kubarycz recalls, “was meeting other artists and feeling a part of the community there.”


His own expressionistic works started to take shape and achieved a remarkable degree of individuality and self-assurance given the short span of his artistic career. Looking at his works, it probably won’t come as a surprise that he listens to heavy metal while working.


The fictions his paintings seem to create appear grotesque but somehow recognizable, like visions through a distorted mirror. Unlike most traditional sketches that begin with the vague shape of a figure and then refine it into details, Kubarycz begins with a limb here or an oddly shaped ear or nose there and connects them to create the figure. This technique renders them segmented, a bit like insects. He has been inspired by an obscure essay called “Insecto-theology” by William Blake, which prompted him to write a response titled “Insectopornography,” as well as to render these sometimes cartoonish yet highly visceral figures at times winding up to throw a punch. His “Postcard” manages to pack in the portrait of a friend, an eerie Donnie Darko-like rabbit, and the Delicate Arch turned alien green'not to mention a nude female figure.


These large, vibrantly colored acrylics are not framed, as he wants the history of these bodies to be explicit, from every brush stroke to accidental fingerprints when they are moved. It’s likely part of his postmodernist literary reaction against the mainstream but also a belief that art shouldn’t just be venerated on a pristine gallery wall. One piece is titled “Gender Studies,” as he says that any female rendering tries to take into account his relationship to the opposite gender, yet it’s a nightmarish rendering seemingly from the subconscious. “Why Papa? Why Mama?”'sometimes “The Martian,” as he sometimes changes titles, or as he describes it, “prefers nicknames”'evidences an aggressive, also very primal depiction of the male psyche. “I like the ability of a painting to do something, to cause people to stand at a particular posture, have a gut response,” he says.


“I like the ability of a painting to do something, to cause people to stand at a particular posture, have a gut response,” he maintains. He encourages his students’ enthusiasm, says he tries to get them to be conscious of why they like that they like, while introducing them to things like obscure 17th-century readings without making them dry at all, but empowering, seeing what they had to say about gender and culture. His teaching style, like his art, is always hands-on. “You don’t read reverently but perform those pieces. It’s like a Stradivarius,” he explains. “You can admire it, but you’d like to pick it up and see what it can do.nn

nFinch Lane Gallery
n1325 E. 100 South
nJan. 12-Feb. 23