New art shows at GR2 are pretty happening events. I’ve seen passers-by out for a night on the town stop and glance through the front window and ask themselves “What’s going on in there?” Sometimes I pipe up and say “It’s an awesome art show!” Sometimes I just keep quiet and see what they do. More often than not, if I don’t butt in, they actually walk into the gallery and check out what’s going on.
So, when a guy in a nondescript green hoodie and grey dockers stepped up to the door with an air of purpose, he stood out to me.
“Who are you.”
It was Luke Cheuh, the curator of the show Friends With the Animals and Other Tales from an Anthropomorphized World, opening that very night. The man himself also has a piece in the show: “Of Mice and Men.”
“I first learned to draw Mickey Mouse at age four, from my mom, Luke said. In this piece, Luke revisited the character, playing around with anthropomorphism (“attributing human characteristics to non-human things,” said Mrs. Brennan, my 10th grade English teacher).
In conceiving this painting, Luke found himself overburdening Mickey’s face with ideas. What do you think happens to a cartoon mouse with human characteristics, when that mouse becomes overburdened with ideas imposed on him by others?
Having literally just found out that it’s not such a small world after all, he has a meltdown, of course!
And so that’s what Luke put on display.
Mickey is already anthropomorphized. He’s a cartoon mouse, with certain features traditionally exaggerated to show off winsomeness and adorability. Here, Luke takes the anthropomorphism a step further. Melty Mickey is rendered with realistic brown eyes – see the lifelike slivers of light? – and bad teeth. So it’s not just that the face is melting. It’s also that Luke added humanlike features to the cartoon mouse face and then Mickey had a meltdown.
“Anthropomorphic art is kind of my thing,” Luke said.
Orange, normally kind of cheery and festive, would contrast nicely against Mickey’s black outlines, but here it amps up the sense of stress.
Given the overall color scheme, I wonder if Munch was Luke’s head when he raised his brush to the canvas.
Luke kicked off his career as an artist at Gallery 1988 in 2003. Since then, social media has given the culture of art new life and a sense of invitation that wasn’t there before. That’s how Luke made his mark. Friends With the Animals will be at GR2 until April 26.