Welcome to the apocalypse

Mark Bryan's paintings are surreal scenes full of disasters, politics and touches of humor

Special to The TribuneOctober 29, 2012 

  • IF YOU GO

    What: ‘The Rupture,” new oils and prints by Mark Bryan

    Gallery hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Show runs through Dec. 4

    Where: Steynberg Gallery, 1531 Monterey St., San Luis Obispo

    Contact: 547-0278

Mark Bryan admits his paintings have always had an “apocalyptic flavor.” My life had an apocalyptic flavor when I first saw his work in the spring of 2011 at Steynberg Gallery, and his quirky and surreal images winked at me.

Salvador Dali dressed in a bunny costume was “Pushing Clocks” in a wheelbarrow, melting clocks, of course, and seemed to say, “Yeah, kid, life is absurd sometimes; just keep on truckin’.”

Another — an oil on canvas over found art — showed a spaceship honing in on a Bambi-like deer.

By the spring of 2012, my life had pretty much righted itself, but Mark Bryan was still painting his unique spin on the world going to hell in a hand basket via aliens and/or crooked politicians. Chances are he was singing along with R.E.M. — “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine” — as he worked on new paintings for his current exhibit, “The Rupture,” at Steynberg through Dec. 4.

“The end of the world is nothing new,” Bryan says in artist materials. “Many religious types and the paranoid have always thought that it’s right around the corner but now I wonder if it’s like that old joke just because they’re nuts doesn’t mean they’re wrong.”

“Devil’s Due, Meltdown at Diablo Canyon” will get the political discussion going for Steynberg customers who have gathered for coffee, but it’s missing the chuckles of “Ship of State (the getaway).”

The former is a nod to last year’s Fukushima disaster and the latter, inspired by the Occupy Movement, morphs the U.S. Capitol with a sinking Titanic. The “one percent” enjoy cocktail par ties in life boats while the rest drown.

The bummer doesn’t last when other new oils include “Outer Child,” a big toddler head with a cigarette smoking monkey in a nightcap popping out the top. Fuzzy animals, Hello Kitty and babies are recurring images in Bryan’s world.

An artist friend posted a picture on Facebook of her young daughter posing with her favorite Bryan painting, “Odalisque.” Bryan’s take on the 19th Century oils of chambermaids features a giant beauty in a sheep costume. Children see a sheep with a pretty face. Bryan sees a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I see Bryan winking at me.

• • •

Speaking of kids who dig art, if you’ve got some, take them to the Dia de Los Muertos celebration at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art from 4 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 1. Families can decorate sugar skulls, make paper marigolds, and create papel picado paper flags while learning more about the Mexican holiday to remember loved ones who have died.

Contact freelance writer Monica Fiscalini at Monica_Jane2000@yahoo.com.

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