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Casey Weldon’s paintings shock, then tug on the heartstrings

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Dawn-Michelle Baude

Consider my assertion, “Casey Weldon is a post-pop surrealist.” Here’s how it works: Casey Weldon = artist. Post = next stage. Pop surrealism = an art movement combining images of everyday consumer culture with dreamy, subconscious symbols. Put it all together in Weldon’s Lose+Find show at Trifecta Gallery and you’ve got a style that reaches beyond the weirdly familiar into a soulful future chockablock with bizarre creatures and figures.

Weldon’s “Chewie,” for example, isn’t simply a tight 14-by-14-inch portrait of a gray striped Tabby on a parquet floor. A double set of eyes and three-toed foot transform the kitty into a sci-fi feline powering up on an electric aqua and cinnamon-red launchpad. The flooring, toes and even the slightly vampiristic meowing mouth shift the image away from the realm of domestic comfort into some vivid otherworld—part Chewbacca, part Hello Kitty.

Calendar

Three and a half stars
LOSE+FIND: NEW WORKS BY CASEY WELDON
Through March 29
; Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Trifecta Gallery, 107 E Charleston Blvd., 366-7001

It’s in the eyes where Weldon, a former Las Vegan, really does his stuff. Four-eyed Chewie targets the part of the brain where neural synapses devoted to identifying faces—a skill necessary for survival—suffer a jolt. That is a cat. Not. At first, it’s hard even to look into the cat’s hyper-realistic eyes, but once the shock wears off, amusement—at the kitty’s strange cuteness—takes over.

Weldon’s four-eyed cats—there are seven in the exhibit—grew from his portraits of women in cat masks. Portraiture—of pets, pies and people—is a Weldon fave and emerges naturally from his training in illustration. That he draws directly on the canvas, instead of tracing a projected image, lends an aura of intimacy to his work.

In the 36-by-24-inch “Homegoing,” the largest painting in the show, Weldon leads the viewer into a volcanic landscape where an attractive woman appears caught in the bewildering scenery of her own subconscious. She’s accompanied by a younger self in an outsized doll mask of her own face. The mask, like the eyes, is a classic symbol for the mysteries of the psyche, but the restricted palette and flattened planes belong to the comics.

In updating traditional surrealist imagery, Weldon pushes his subject matter into a futuristic arena that, ultimately, might not be so weird after all. Chewie could be a genetically engineered pet, the tripartite girl in “Homegoing” shorthand for a civilization that forces us to reassess what makes us human. Weldon’s work suggests that empathy for our uncanny world might be a viable response.

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