Cold Comfort: A Pilsen artist couple’s surreal visions

The dark whimsy and ethereal, nightmarish quality of painter Beth Bojarski’s and sculptor Mark Winter’s works make “Don’t Get Too Comfortable” a fitting title for the couple’s first joint show in Chicago. The exhibition opens at Logsdon 1909 this Friday, November 13, as a part of Pilsen’s monthly Second Friday gallery crawl.

Both artists depict pastel cartoonish figures with overgrown heads and disturbing expressions, which are simultaneously beautiful and off-putting, similar to the animated films of Tim Burton. The bright colors and flat, childish figures draw the viewer into a world that is simultaneously innocent and terrifying.

Bojarski’s background in illustration manifests itself in the whimsical, disproportionate figures she paints, as well as in the narrative quality of her work. “Buck Shot,” one of Bojarski’s new pieces that will be included in the exhibition, features a human figure with twigs nailed on as antlers and eyes outlined in grey circles, against a sepia scene. A gargantuan neck and head dwarf a fragile nude torso, stained in red and marked with grey targets. The figure looks nervously into the distance and attempts to cover itself with thin arms.

Another image, “What Lies Beneath,” shows a fat figure in a green striped swimsuit and flowered, beehive swim cap, peering into the water in which it’s standing. Only after long inspection does the viewer see what the swimmer sees: mangled hands and feet reaching toward its body.

The cool pastels and soft lines of Bojarski’s images make their dark elements all the more sinister. Her works serve as “extreme metaphors” for the way America’s dolled-up, Disney-themed façade masks discomfort and anxiety, according to gallery director Marco Logsdon.

Winter creates mechanical, often grotesque human figures using found objects, from car parts to scraps of metal. The materials used give the figures a rough, mechanical quality that complements the softness of Bojarski’s paintings. His sculptures share the dark humor and commanding, nightmarish quality of Bojarski’s oils and move automatically. “Striped Eye” is a man-machine, with thin arms and legs emanating from a lacquer-box torso, topped with a bald head and a gear eye. This sculpture manifests itself as a demonic robot and seems to serve as a metaphor for the modern mania that mechanized society provokes in us. Although mechanical, the sculptures are extremely expressive. Logsdon compares the aesthetic quality of Winter’s sculptures to African masks, noting that the figures’ gigantic heads always have “a very definite expression, whether it’s laughter or fear.”

The haunting and surreal nature of Winter’s and Bojarski’s pieces matches past work exhibited in Logsdon Gallery, which was founded by Logsdon in 2006 and now operates as an artistic cooperative of ten members. Jim Dee, an abstract painter and member of the cooperative, describes the group’s work as sharing a “dream quality,” an attempt to use art as a “different kind of language.” Perhaps “Don’t Get Too Comfortable” hopes to demonstrate this abstract form of communication: to convey thoughts, concepts, and emotions that may be disturbing and strange, and that lie beneath the ordinary realm of expression.
Logsdon 1909, 1909 S. Halsted St. Opening on November 13. Friday, 6pm-10pm. Through December 5. Saturday, noon-5pm, or by appointment. (312)666-8966.