As a kid, I was always more drawn to stuffed animals than to Barbies (though I always desperately wanted a Barbie make-up head), so it's no wonder I was so fascinated by Out of the Black at Gallery Hanahou. Artist/creative director Matt Campbell explores "the attraction/revulsion dichotomy in our disposable environment" (from the press release) by taking "creatures [that] have all been created, loved, abandoned and finally entombed in a symbolic black rubber skin. Wrenched out of the blue (the natural living world) and thrown into the black (the artificial or “dead” world that we create)" (from Out of the Black website).
Campbell's sculptures of formerly soft and fuzzy friends transformed into tragic, darkened symbols of our shameful, destructive consumerist culture are adorable, eerie, and melancholic. As Campbell states on the show's website, "They are sad but also, simultaneously, shiny and attractive. I am struck by their iconic beauty — saddened by their bedraggled state. They’re Cute yet Dark — whimsical but cynical..." He compares the creatures' contradictory appearances to human's paradoxical nature to create and destroy.
The little, blackened critters are sweet and ominous - each possessing a unique personality and oddly expressive, little plastic eyes. Campbell's stuffed creatures look a lot like the disturbing images of wildlife you sometimes see on the news - when animals are the unfortunate victims of oil spills. As the artist states, he titled his show Out of the Black because he is "hopeful that we’re now collectively heading somewhat in a new direction away from our dark past." Let's hope he's right. Learn more at galleryhanahou.com and outoftheblack.org where you can see a white, fuzzy-wuzzy stuffed bear being dipped into black rubber. Through April 30th.