Creature Feature

“There’s No Such Thing as Beauty Sleep” by Richard Wille is a piece in the “Creature Feature” exhibit at the SHAPE gallery in Shippensburg.

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Do you remember staring down into your darkened basement or asking your parents to check in your bedroom closet just in case?

The 31 artists featured at the SHAPE Art Gallery on Shippensburg’s East King Street certainly do. Running through the month until Oct. 27, visitors can see an array of creatures of the night invading the walls in “Creature Feature: A Dark Art Exhibition,” which is must-see experience founded on the concept of curator Mark Wojciechowski.

Wandering the exhibit space, the sheer number of media in use is astonishing. Not only are there traditional pen and ink, pastel and watercolor pieces, but there’s also unique mixed media pieces such as “Attack of the 50 ft. Space Robot,” a piece that consists of layers of acrylic sheets with a portion of a scene painted on each layer. Using this method, artist Matthew Bennett gave a retro scene depth in a unique way.

The whimsy moved to reality with Chambersburg local Benjamin McAfee’s split canvas piece “Bonnie and Clyde.” The anatomical skulls—featuring a bright red bow for Bonnie and a red bandanna for Clyde—are drawn with pastels and shows the inevitable aftermath of the infamous bank robbing duo. Standing in front of these large square canvases, one can’t help but feel the gaping eye sockets of Bonnie and Clyde staring blankly out at the viewer.

“Creature Feature” would not be complete without childhood “boogeymen” littering the walls of the gallery. Richard Wille, of Phoenix, Arizona, had several pieces that featured creative characters that paid tribute to his fascination with macabre, yet comical creatures, including the prominent “There’s No Such Thing as Beauty Sleep.”

This beast can be found on the posters advertising the exhibit, yet the ink drawing is rather small. However, size is no issue as Wille’s monster stares out from its frame with a shaded face, white eyes and clenched teeth that remind the viewer of the artist’s belief that every shadow comes from a source of light.

“I was familiar with some of these artists, but what these artists struggled with was that galleries usually do not display these horror or whimsical pieces,” said Wojciechowski, who attested to his own fascination with creature art and design. “The idea was to have a space to feature these artists who are not usually well received.”

Of course, where would a horror exhibit be without the proper atmosphere? The opening night on Oct. 6 was certainly memorable with a performance by Guillermo Pizarro, whose unique music stylings spanned the customary music genre and created a space of unnerving suspense.

Pizarro’s performance itself was hypnotic as he used a variety of handmade tools to create his soundscape. Glancing at his station, he had blocks of wood with metal bars and springs arranged in various ways. One of the more extreme tools he had was a metal bar with electrified springs stretched across it. Pizarro then ran a violin bow over the springs to elicit an electrified shiver.

The performance ended with a sudden crescendo, and the chatter that had been occurring in the exhibit space suddenly ceased. What sounded like hundreds of trains swept through the audience signifyed the performance was over.

Even without the music, “Creature Feature” is a worthwhile experience for anyone who needs some extra Halloween spirit, but it is not your grandmother’s art show. Rather, this art show will follow you home and make you wonder what might be hiding under your bed.

“Creature Feature” runs at SHAPE Art Gallery (19 E. King St., Shippensburg) through Oct. 27. Hours for the gallery are 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Jessica Cernich is a Shippensburg University student writing for the Reviewing the Arts for Publication class.

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