"Jesse Narens: Creak, Crack, Creep" at Yard Dog Gallery

This Portland artist's images of nature transmogrified are a perfect antidote to holiday overcheer

No Protections by Jesse Narens

Thanksgiving's been and gone, and now here come all those more industrial-strength winter holidays. That tends to mean, here in the U.S. of A, that everything's gonna be festooned all bright 'n' cheery, especially up and down every boulevard that trucks in retail therapy – and that goes double, we reckon, for a popular socializing-and-shopping strip like South Congress Avenue: Santas and bright-eyed elves and peppermint-flavored tinsel and enough hypersweet gewgawry to send a Type 1 diabetic into the ICU.

I think we need a little Krampus, right this very minute. Or at least we need something on SoCo – especially since beloved Blackmail shuttered – that'll appeal more to the darkness of this world, that evokes the darkness of this world, that is, vividly, part of the darkness of this world.

Citizen, join with me in thanking the outsider-art champions at Yard Dog, because they've done just that: embraced the darkness. The newest exhibition at the Southside bastion of what's located at the intersection of DIY and brilliance is called "Creak, Crack, Creep." It's a show of work from Portland's Jesse Narens, a creative autodidact with a distinctive perspective on what's around him and the talent to express his darkling visions as art that "often [reflects] on humanity's tumultuous relationship with nature and personal transformation."

Black on black, gray on black, black on white, white on gray on black: a thick progression of stuttered monochrome rendered in acrylics and graphite and oil pastels on discrete wooden panels. "With no attachment to preconceived ideas," says the artist's statement, "pieces begin without sketches, and seemingly finished works may continue on and be layered over at any time." Portraits of wild beasts and woodland creatures, built up with relevant imagery and personal symbology incorporated into their sepulchral meatus. This art is creepy as hell, yes, like something created by a Stone Age shaman anticipating the works of Hieronymus Bosch while infused with psilocybin and daubing chalk, transcendent, on the rough walls of an obsidian cave. Primitive and stunning, these images, even when complicated by a depth of layers and patterns.

Santa? That jolly old elf is cowering behind a stalagmite, pretty much scared shitless, because he's glimpsed something of this same primal darkness in Blitzen's eyes on a winter's afternoon, and he's learned to tread softly indeed, lest reindeer games turn suddenly mutinous, the familiar sleigh team become a ravening crowd of ungulates with bloody Kringle-mayhem in mind.

For which brief respite from holly-jolly-whoop-de-doo, we give thanks to Yard Dog and Jesse Narens this holiday season.

“Jesse Narens: Creak, Crack, Creep”

Yard Dog Gallery, 1510 S. Congress, 512/912-1613, www.yarddog.com. Through Dec. 31

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Yard Dog Gallery
"Carl Block: Odd Pottery"
Block's ceramic monster-faced jugs with crooked teeth and varminty eyes are indeed odd but also colorful and delightful

Wayne Alan Brenner, Dec. 29, 2017

More Arts Reviews
Hyde Park’s <i>My H-E-B</i> Shows Humanity, Explored
Hyde Park’s My H-E-B Shows Humanity, Explored
Like the store, in this work the people matter

Cat McCarrey, June 14, 2024

Review: “Flatland Revisited” at Lydia Street Gallery
Review: “Flatland Revisited” at Lydia Street Gallery
Dreaming young girls and reimagined worlds run rampant in new solo exhibit

Meher Qazilbash, June 14, 2024

More by Wayne Alan Brenner
Visual Art Review: Stuffed Animal Rescue Foundation’s “The Still Life”
Visual Art Review: Stuffed Animal Rescue Foundation’s “The Still Life”
This charming exhibit rehabilitates neglected stuffies, then puts them to work creating art

March 22, 2024

Spider Sculptures, Gore Feasts, and More Arts Events
Spider Sculptures, Gore Feasts, and More Arts Events
Feed your art habit with these recommended events for the week

March 22, 2024


Yard Dog Gallery, Jesse Narens

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle