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'Adventures Through the Anthropocene'

Jason Sobottka paintings at Tacoma Community College

“Kevlar Wolves,” painting by Jason Sobottka. Photo credit: Gabi Clayton

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Jason Sobottka is a fascinating painter. It's tempting to label his paintings fantasy art, but that would be too easy. There are fantasy elements aplenty, but there is much more to it than that. He paints fantasy creatures and mythological creatures, and he paints common animals such as dogs, rabbits and deer in fantasy settings. More importantly, he combines many of these, often within a single painting or in some instances within a single animal. He places his creatures in the Anthropocene (defined as relating to or denoting the current geological age, viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment) and calls his show "Adventures Through the Anthropocene". 

The images he creates and his style of painting may not be unique in and of themselves, but in combination they are as inventive and as unusual as anything you're likely to see. It is like Jackson Pollock with his drip paintings. He wasn't the only one to do it, or even the first, but nobody did it with such consummate skill and passion as he did. So it is with Sobottka.

And it is not just the strange creatures. Many artists who grew up reading graphic novels and watching sci-fi movies invent strange creatures (I have no idea how young or old Sobottka is or to what degree he might have been influenced by sci-fi and fantasy). But few other artists create their fantasy images with such skill or with such a variety of ways of painting - an intermingling of geometric patterns, cartoon line drawings, realistically rendered figures, flat shapes and colors, smooth modeling and heavy impasto, plus spray paint, glitter and pasted-on googly eyes.  

A few examples:

"Elkotaur Blessing" depicts a man with a deer head and tattoos of cartoon figures on his body. He is seen from chest up. He has two antlers. One of them is normal and is rendered realistically, the other is pink and painted flat with glitter.

"Deer Spirit with Pitcher Plants," acrylic, oil and glitter on canvas, pictures a seated nude female figure seen head to toe. She has the head of a deer and is holding an assault rifle.

"Elkataur with Tattoos" is like "Elkataur Blessing" except the man's body is seen from head to foot and there are googly eyes glued onto much of the image.

"Kevlar Wolves" pictures six fierce running wolves drawn and painted in a variety of styles. Some are realistic; some are line drawings; one is a head only that fades into the background; and one is a flat white silhouette. Throughout the background and partially overlapping the wolves are geometric patterns and architectural forms.

"Anti-poaching Intervention," acrylic and screen print on canvas, depicts two rhinos with machine guns mounted on their backs with transparent circular collars around their necks. One of them has a blue and purple polka-dot body.

"Adventures Through the Anthropocene" is a fun show. To me, the visual elements of line, shape, color and texture and the way they blend, merge, contrast and complement each other is even more fascinating than the fantasy creatures.

Jason Sobottka "Adventures Through the Anthropocene", noon to 5 p.m. Monday-Thursday, through Dec. 16, Tacoma Community College, Building 5A, entrance off South 12th St. between Pearl and Mildred, Tacoma, visitor parking in Lot G

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