Old-School Americana Gets a Sinister Makeover in the Work of Alexis E. Mabry
These collages and paintings would make Reagan and Rockwell so bummed.
Images courtesy of Alexis E. Mabry.
The macabre and whimsical meld into a potpourri of lighthearted chaos in the assemblage paintings, mixed-media collages, and jewelry of artist Alexis E. Mabry. Wholesome American families from the 50s laugh while catching on fire, an eager young boy's head flies off his body like a bloody rocket while opening Christmas presents, a lamb smiles wryly while getting stabbed by a dozen steak knives. A change of facial expression or of background scenery could easily transform these works into gruesome horror, but instead they become emblems of gallows humor.
As interesting as severed heads, sprayed blood, and Goldilocks cooking one of the three bears alive may be, it takes a certain level of dedication and genuine interest to portray comical carnage in all of your works. Unsurprisingly, Mabry's interest in morbid imagery traces itself all the way back to her childhood, where she attended a tiny Baptist Christian elementary school:
"Though I went to school in the late 80s and early 90s, the school itself seemed to be stuck in time in the 1950s. I very clearly remember getting swatted on my butt with a paddle because I colored outside of the lines on a color project (that I was actually proud of!)," Mabry explains. "On the opposite end, I would go home to my parents, who love TV and would let me watch whatever I wanted, and my favorites were scary movies. Movies like Candy Man , Night of the Living Dead , Creepshow, and shows like Tales from the Crypt were among the top favorites as a kid. The gorier, bloodier, cheesier, the better."
The daily contrast of her daytime life and nighttime entertainment proved to be the catalyst for her future artistic practice: "As a kid, I think these parallels between 1950's-esque 'good, innocent Christian children' and blood and guts made my brain into what it has become today, and that is what you will see the most, if not all of my work," Mabry adds. "I love the contrast between good and evil, or innocence and gore."
Her sources of reference and the artistic material for her collage works come from the same types of Christian "goody two shoes" books of older American life that she was forced to read in elementary school: "As an adult, I saw them differently, as if these books spoke to me. They told me to pop their heads off and make a blood geyser out of their necks, all with a smile," the artist reveals.
"I did my first collage this way, and I was hooked. The way it came out just made me smile and laugh, and I loved the stoned, happy look on the boy's face as his head soared high above his body. IT made me feel right at home, and I've been working this way ever since."