Embracing evil: Yukon artists explore the dark side

Get ready, Whitehorse, for some nude, frolicking demons, bloodthirsty minotaurs, creepy clowns and baby-eating werewolves.

Get ready, Whitehorse, for some nude, frolicking demons, bloodthirsty minotaurs, creepy clowns and baby-eating werewolves.

A fantasy art exhibition is coming to town.

Dubbed Heavy Metal North, the three-day show set for Oct. 14 to 16 will feature seven local artists showcasing their darkest creations.

The show is a first in the territory, and for a reason.

“In a nice community environment, you tend to edit your art so you don’t offend anyone by showing nudity and violence and such,” said Chris Caldwell, who put together the exhibition.

Heavy Metal North is different from the usual poetic landscape art exhibition. Its motto: “Let’s all pull the gloves off.”

There will be colouring books, posters, and comics for sale, but the exhibition is for an adult audience, Caldwell warns right off the bat.

There will be blood, gore, and some nudity — but nothing hateful or discriminatory, she insists.

Caldwell is known for the cute cartoons and portraits she’s been drawing for 40 years.

Fantasy art with a darker side has always been a passion for her. When she first came to the Yukon she tried to showcase some of that work but was quickly told to stop.

“No one would hang it,” she said of her art.

Instead she focused on watercolour fine art paintings depicting cute animals and life in the territory. What she describes as her “commercial” work is colourful, vibrant, and happy.

On the other side of the art spectrum lies her true passion, one that can be seen in the form of a towering minotaur staring at the viewer after having slayed an innocent man.

Caldwell said she decided to put on Heavy Metal North after attending YukomiCon — a geekfest for comic book lovers.

“My brain exploded,” she said. “I had taken all my other artistic muses, jammed them in a box, and shoved them in the basement,” she said of her life doing commercial design.

All of a sudden it all came back to her. She wanted to draw and paint fantasy art again.

But the public expected to see her famous cartoons, and some of her work had to be partially censored because of the family-friendly nature of YukomiCon.

She remembers seeing fellow artist Andrew Sharp at an event showing a short animated film that turned out to be a little too dark for a family-friendly audience. When the film ended, there was just a tense silence.

“He got no response to the cartoon, people had come there expecting to see something cute,” Caldwell said.

“What they got was a very serious story about a Greek family and a harpy eating their baby.”

Neither YukomiCon nor local galleries were thrilled to have art like that, Caldwell said.

Fantasy artists needed their own space.

So she took on organizing the exhibition and chose a different artist name: CC Deranged.

“Deranged, this is how I feel after 40 years in the closet,” she said.

Atlin-born Matt Taylor-Fisher couldn’t agree more.

Growing up in a community of 400 people known for its family-friendly art and music festival, he didn’t have too many opportunities to showcase his work.

“When I was a kid I started drawing dragons,” he said. “I moved into creepy clowns and the horror genre in my teens.”

And that’s where he seems to have stayed: a sample image provided to the News depicts a clown wearing a fox mask, his mouth open with a snake tongue coming out, holding torches and standing on top of a pentacle.

“I’ve always drawn it and kept it to myself,” he said.

Only recently did he start making t-shirts with less mainstream graphics.

The show is hosted at Triple J’s Music, Tattoos & Piercing, and there will be heavy metal playing in the background.

The seven artists have been working on pieces for a year. The collective chose to focus on mythology, but the artists can add other elements to their work.

But while the exhibition contains some elements that could be disturbing — a werewolf eating a baby, for instance — the gore is not an obligation, merely a possibility.

For example, Caldwell worked on a standalone drawing of a flying Pegasus.

Fantasy and science fiction have experienced a comeback in mainstream culture, she said.

In March, the film Deadpool, adapted from the comic book series, became the most successful R-rated movie of all time, with over US$700 million in box office receipts, according to Wired magazine.

The titular character turns people into “kebabs” with dual swords, talks about masturbating, makes fun of blind people and cracks jokes as he murders bad guys in the most brutal ways.

“It’s wonderfully refreshing to have a kind of antihero amidst of the all the goody two-shoes behaviour,” she said. “(Deadpool) was basically how a real person with a raunchy sense of humour would respond to a situation.”

Caldwell hopes the exhibition will encourage fellow fantasy art lovers to come out and show their talents.

When she left Vancouver, this type of macabre art was huge.

“It’s taken the Yukon nearly 40 years to play catch-up,” she said. “The new generation… they want to be a part of the world art scene.”

Entry to the exhibition is free. For more information, visit the Heavy Metal North Facebook page.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

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