ArtsATL > Art+Design > Review: Chris Scarborough’s fine “mess” at Marcia Wood Gallery

Review: Chris Scarborough’s fine “mess” at Marcia Wood Gallery

Ever feel like your head is so full of things that it feels it will explode? I certainly have, which is why a smile spread across my face as I entered Chris Scarborough’s exhibition of new work at Marcia Wood Gallery in Atlanta.

“Orbital Debris,” positioned just inside the door, is an intricate
drawing of a young man in a John Deere T-shirt. Where his head should be is an explosion of fractured planes and shards of glass flying in all directions. The energy and fury are palpable as what can be seen as ideas, thoughts and random details escape the confines of his cranium.

In the drawing “The Economist,” this same type of eruption is mounted on the four legs of a young deer. But the effect is a bit different. It’s as if you have walked mid-frame into a “Transformers” movie and a sweet, innocent, Bambi-like fawn is in the process of morphing into a mechanized superhero figure.

This impression is amplified by “The Modernist,” where the head of a deer is intricately drawn but its hindquarters are beginning to break up into small planes, as if the process is now reversed and the mechanized superhero is transforming back into its original form. Similarly, in “The Housewife,” a close-up portrait of a woman shows aberrations to her face, perhaps giving us a glimpse of what the very beginning stages of transformation look like.

The well crafted drawings, made with a combination of graphite,watercolor and gouache, capture the pivotal moment where Scarborough’s everymen (“Economist,” “Housewife,” “Modernist,” “Optimist”) are engaged in a battle to fight off chaos. His large oil on canvas, “Catalyst,” with its fractured planes wrapped together by swirls of muddy brown, almost reads as a representation of this chaos. These works are a poignant comment on how the world as we knew it, especially economically and politically, has changed. As Scarborough humorously says in the title for the show, “If this ain’t a mess it’ll do till the mess gets here.”

Interestingly, one drawing, “The Huntsman,” features a figure not caught in a transformation. With a huge grin on his face and a gun in his hand, he stands totally intact. Slung across his back is the reason for his elation: visible are the nose and hooves of the young deer he has killed.

Perhaps the reason I enjoy this work so much is that we all have our own deer in our lives, our own demons aggravated by the current chaos that we constantly struggle against. Sometimes we lose control to our demons and they take over our heads. Other times we can keep them mostly in control and their effects are visible only in small ways. On rare occasions, we go into battle well armed and emerge victorious, able for a bit longer to keep the chaos at bay.

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