WAYS OF MOVING, July 2018 Solo show at Blue Rain Gallery
Though Brad Overton grew up in a conservative religious family, he found what he felt was his most sincere connection to the spiritual realm in the delicate beauty of the world around him. From an early age he collected objects that were so lovely to him they became like talisman and he spent hours arranging these objects into what he later realized, were altars. In front of these altars he spent time in peace and contemplation and learned meditation. Eventually, these objects (and many other talisman collected along the way), would make their way into his earliest exhibited still life paintings. These holy objects-wonderfully worn toys, skateboards, bikes, religious symbols, dolls, pottery and toys arranged and painted in great detail were the foundation of Overton’s career as an artist.
In this new series he takes the idea of altars and holy objects to a gently humorous but genuinely reverent level, painting traditional (Christian), holy objects and Pre-Colombian idols on top of toy Volkswagens. With hand-carved and stained traditional Mexican folk-style wooden frames, each uniquely designed for the painting; he bows to traditional retablos; Mexican (and New Mexican) devotional paintings created for ritual and worship.
Humans have worn masks and face paint ceremonially for thousands of years. Connecting their wearers to spirits, provided protection, personified Gods, animals and beings, masks allowed those wearing them a certain transformation. The anonymity of disguise gave power to its user allowing them to move more fluidly between identities, shrugging off the mundane cloak of everyday life in celebration and ritual.
In Overton’s Calavera paintings, he draws upon the power of disguise, the makeup as mask, to reveal something deeply sincere and perhaps even spiritual in his subjects. Veiled behind calavera makeup, the women in these paintings are allowed the freedom to embody whoever they want to be or perhaps, to become the Aztec deities Overton wishes to represent.
While the calavera makeup points to a finite humanity, the titles of these pieces suggest otherwise. With titles like Coyolxuahqui, (Coyo for short), the Aztec Moon Goddess and Xochi, the Aztec Goddess of fertility and female sexuality, there is a strong sense that these figures are infinite.
Scale plays an important role in these paintings, and one must see them in person to fully understand and feel their magnetism. Larger than life, the huge faces covered in paint are surrounded in flowers that fill the canvas. The obvious beauty of the subjects Overton portrays is striking but as we continue to gaze upon these brightly celestial and darkly human faces, they radiate something more; a power that is sometimes defiant, sometimes sexual and sometimes lonesome.
VINTAGE TOY STILL LIFES
In this body of work tiny western archetypes loom large. Richly colored, vintage toys float on simple gray backgrounds. Shadows move across a gray plain and highly detailed cowboys and indians run across what we can only imagine to be mesas and canyons in pursuit of or fleeing from a scene which we cannot see. Relying on raw skill, color, composition, and the inherent beauty of the objects he’s painted, Overton’s paintings call on the playfulness and sense of humor of the viewer to be the player, playing. They also draw on Overton’s earliest inspirations, his childhood fantasies of running freely through the landscape with his greatest heroes, the indians and cowboys who made the west what it is and who still enchant our minds with memories of what was.