"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 almost 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  

READ MORE
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
Jarrott Productions' <i>The Niceties</i>
Jarrott Productions' The Niceties
In this staging of Eleanor Burgess' drama, the frictions of American society catch fire in an academic's office

Robert Faires, Jan. 24, 2020

Austin Playhouse's <i>Tiny Beautiful Things</i>
Austin Playhouse's Tiny Beautiful Things
There's excellent work in Austin Playhouse's production about Cheryl Strayed writing an advice column, but where's the humility?

Elizabeth Cobbe, Jan. 24, 2020

More by Wayne Alan Brenner
Is FronteraFest Even Half Human?
Is FronteraFest Even Half Human?
Two local brothers deck the Long Fringe walls at Ground Floor Theatre

Jan. 23, 2020

"PrintAustin: The Contemporary Print" at Big Medium
To go or not to go: That's ultimately a stupid question

Jan. 24, 2020

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Yard Dog Gallery, Jesse Narens

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Time to vote! Music Poll 2019-20 balloting is underway   VOTE NOW