Women without noses

Women without noses
Beautiful Oddities by Scott Scheidly
Through July 13 at BoldHype Gallery
1844 E. Winter Park Road; 407-629-2965

In his solo exhibition, Beautiful Oddities, Scott Scheidly brings strong West Coast pop surrealism to Orlando, along with the push-pull of science fiction and a sense of reality gone badly wrong. Scheidly, who studied art in Pittsburgh and moved to Los Angeles, soaked up the lowbrow, Juxtapoz-inspired culture and has since carved his own niche in this movement, which owes much to the godfather of surrealism, Salvador Dali.

The subtle joke of Beautiful Oddities, however, may rest far earlier in works such as Gogol's "The Nose," an 1835 early Russian science-fiction story about a noseless protagonist. The implications — whether anti-phallic, allegorically referencing the loss of one of the most fundamental senses or simply absurd — run through Scheidly's exhibition.

Whatever your interpretation, the removal of the nose from these women deeply disturbs, as in the otherwise domestic-looking "Some Weird Chick," or is part of a larger, off-the-wall scene, such as "Calypso," where the woman is wearing a coral reef and apparently has sprouted an bioluminescent appendage that could be considered an alternative to a proboscis. Elsewhere, the women's antlers, lion-like pets, pink German army tanks and other accoutrements throw them into the realm of slightly senseless but very believable unreality, as if the sum total of the narrative portends a dark, dangerous future without odors and without safety.

Earth mothers, these aren't.

And this is where Scheidly's work produces shivers, for his meticulous, almost undetectable brushstrokes, his mastery of the traditional techniques of light and shadow and his almost Victorian framing belong in some musty museum. Yet his content is as edgy and as much a part of the postmodern present as one can imagine. Only the fine art borne of comic-book illustrators like James Jean compares, wherein the darker aspects of Western scientific society are mocked, then treated with loving and passionate dedication to craft.

As a movement, lowbrow artists care not for critical acclaim. Instead, they focus on generating powerful visions of the rewritten past, the near future and an alternate present. Scheidly draws from street art with skulls, bubbles, cartoon creatures and weapons; yet he draws from fine art traditions as well, with sophisticated embedded symbolism to suggest new narratives and new ideas, and his visions are beguilingly beautiful, weird and out-of-place enough to jar one's dulled,

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