When you think of holiday art shows, what usually comes to mind? Traditionally, if you wanted to gaze at art that contemplates anything deeper than a Norman Rockwell scene, or experience anything more visually challenging than a tinsel-hung tree, you were stuck with the artistic equivalent of a lump of coal.
Laura McBride has been curating the Nightmare Before Christmas show since 2002 to provide a venue for “outsider” artists in the community. She aimed to create a show with the possibility of tackling dark or difficult themes, not necessarily nightmarish. Rather than any pointed comment about the season, she just got the idea from her computer screensaver based on the 1993 Tim Burton movie.
Even so, from the first year the show was held at Angles CafÃ©, it made waves. While McBride agreed to move potentially objectionable material to the back of the store to avoid offending customers, there were complaints about pieces related to child neglect—showing a child with its head removed—and a beehive with fetuses growing out of it making a statement about abortion.
Though McBride says the initial show created bad blood between her and Angles, it generated good PR. Last year, she again planned Nightmare at the W Lounge and says that management made her remove some of the pieces because of strong content.
This year looks to be a different Nightmare, though, due to the involvement of New Visions Gallery’s Brad Ford. He applied to last year’s show; McBride saw his gallery’s Dangerous Art exhibition. They found they were like minds. His skill at promotion and design is helping her make a quantum leap in the presentation of advance materials for the show, and preparation. Ford immediately liked the idea of Nightmare. “It’s a venue for people to express their ideas, not as wrong or right, but to create a dialogue. ... This is the way we communicate.”
The way they communicated the location of the show was also a new twist this year: It wasn’t announced until mid-December, with the idea of letting people know on Ford’s Website or McBride’s phone. The idea was for people to seek it out, thus avoiding offending people who happened upon the show. Another reason for waiting to announce the location was because several venues showed interest, only to get cold feet. “I go for spaces with a good environment for the art. I try to create a good trade for them, so they will get some benefit,” says McBride.
Alex Hinton and REZ are the two featured artists, in addition to special guest Anne Vinsel and a baker’s dozen of some of the region’s most challenging creative minds. Hinton is an active vegan, and his work—portraits with red, almost meat-like skin—reflects that. The work of REZ depicts the chaos hidden behind society’s veneer of order. He attacks the canvas with found objects, and can’t be contained within the frame. His performance art group “Destroy” once decorated, then destroyed a television. They will perform at the opening.
Among other participants, Mary Brooks paints wildly proportioned caricatures, often from pop culture; her “Sad Santa” appears decrepit and depressed. Max Grundy’s large, weighty abstracts comment on Russian involvement in 9/11. Vinsel creates cognitive dissonance with a painting of a child wielding a pistol. And artists Louise Coleman and Mimi Breinholt will be showing their works for the first time. “Sometimes you have to see your art on the wall to realize you’re an artist,” McBride finds.
Ford maintains that this show wouldn’t be the same anywhere else—“In L.A., a show like this wouldn’t be news; there’d be one every week. ... Every time I try to put on a show it seems like an invisible hand comes in and interferes. But it’s worth it. This art will change you.”
McBride adds that art has been on a pedestal so long that people don’t know how to connect with it anymore. But she says she loves the works in this show. “I’d like to own something by each of these artists. It’d be like Christmas.”
NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS United Art Alliance 2191 S. 300 West Second floor Dec. 17-30 Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday: Noon-5 p.m. Reception: Dec. 17, 6-10 p.m. 455-1689 artgodz.com/nightmare