A Haunted House of Fun

10/23/2013 4:00 AM |

Photo by Paul D’Agostino

Her creative realm, if not lair, is one that brims with craft tweaked with creepy kitsch. Her materials are an extensive mix so broad-ranging—from papier-mâché to lighted candles, from wigs and fake fur to plants, from cast ceramics to track jackets—that they might defy exhaustive lists. Her forms protrude and ensnare, shimmer and grasp, glare through spent eyes, entrap. And her general aesthetic tends toward the horrifically humorous, if not also horrendously precious.

The artist is Roxanne Jackson, a ceramicist and mixed-media sculptor whose solo exhibition at Airplane Gallery, Death Valley (through November 16), is rather properly timed for certain autumnal holidays, to say the least. Snakes slither through and squirm around colorfully glazed skulls; decapitations abound; morbid objects are enlivened and enshrined; a mouse carcass rests in the palm of a monstrous hand. Post-mortem lovers, even, stand frozen in a terrifying tangle of OK-Cupidity gone woefully awry—or perhaps happily ever after, death not even doing them part in their Thereafter—while heads of variform Medusas lie about in a state of nearly audible shriek and plop. Almost all of Jackson’s sculptures feature jarring fissures, jabbing points or truncated parts, yet their theatrically arrayed ensemble—displayed upon a triple-tiered stage of sorts swallowing up a significant share of the gallery’s basement space—brings them into gravely settled, albeit unsettling, cohesion. “It’s a lot about beauty,” the artist says, “at least a certain sort of beauty.” That sort, to be sure, is well served by her masterful merging of so many disparate materials. Should you ever need tips for turning seashells into body parts, you now know whom to ask.

Death Valley is indeed something of a horror show—no bones about it—but its mood is celebratory and merrymaking as well. A pumpkin carving gathering, for instance, is slated to take place at the gallery during the show’s run. So in short and in sum, and at just the right time, Jackson’s show is terribly fun.

You can follow Paul D’Agostino on Twitter @postuccio