Dec 13, 2012 5:32 PM by Dan Shadwell, KSBY News
Artist Wendy Marvel doesn't choreograph her photo shoots, other than to pick a location and some odd props.
One of the photos featured in her show at Vale Fine Art in Paso Robles was shot on the front porch of an old mansion in New Orleans.
"We had these costumes, but they weren't really put together," she explains. "It wasn't planned and I had these huge wigs and another girl brought monkey masks and another girl brought lingerie and we put them together and it was weird and it worked."
The result is a scene that depicts scantily-clad female bodies, with chimp-like faces, topped with wildly colored mops of hair. It's both oddly erotic and repulsive.
You'll find that contrast in much of her work... a willingness to play with seemingly contradictory imagery, cast in settings that lend a sense of impending doom. In fact for a series of shots featuring full-grown people dressed in bunny suits, she selected the Salton Sea--an area of the interior deserts of Southern California that more resembles a super-fund clean-up site than a location for a modeling shoot.
Marvel liked the fact that the region is renowned for its toxicity. "There's a filthiness about it that did not match the white bunny suits," she says.
Paso Robles gallery owner Madeline Vale likes the disturbing, almost nightmarish quality of Wendy's work.
"Nightmares do intrigue people. I mean, that's the adrenaline rush and even,.. it's in such a subtle way but it's a private moment between you and the piece when you're looking at it and it grabs you, it spooks you, it scares you and you wonder, '..why? Why is this?' I like the questions that flow from it."
Equally fascinating, if less haunting are mechanical flip-books, scrolling series of antique-looking photos--a twist on old fashioned moving pictures. In one sequential series of boxes, a horse runs through the frame of the first box, into and through the second, finally disappearing into the last.
Marvel and her collaborators also designed a hand-held, hand-cranked version you can take home and customize yourself...
"They can actually go online, upload their own video or hand-drawn animation," she adds, "...anything they want and make their own flipbooks."
Vale Fine Art sells all of Wendy Marvel's art on display in the gallery. The hand-held flip books run a few hundred dollars, while the wall mounted versions can run into the thousands. Her photos start in the hundreds.
"Lyrical Play" can be seen at Vale Fine Art in Paso Robles through January 25.
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