There probably isn't a single goth in all of Houston who doesn't have one of Bret Harmeyer's paintings hanging somewhere in their house. And when he married his artist girlfriend Rachel last Halloween, all of us knew it couldn't be long before the two of them teamed up to bring some disturbingly brilliant pieces of work into being.
Enter "The Anatomy Lesson," a series of paintings and sculptures inspired by the (internal) human body, appropriately on view through Halloween at Dean's Credit Clothing downtown.
"Rachel and I looked for areas where our interests overlapped," said Bret. "I have a background in science, and she collects antique anatomical illustrations and has been using them as source material for a long time. We're both also interested in the idea of the aesthetics of science, and I think that informs a lot of this as well."
Despite the scientific nature of the exhibition, the works are meant more as anatomical shorthand than full-on educational materials. Many of the pieces are influenced by Rachel's collection of very old medical texts, and as such, the medical accuracy is directly proportionate to the source materials.
The exhibit is somewhat of a departure for Bret, who's known locally for his paintings of insects with human faces and dark-eyed masked people. Sinister innocence plays a great deal in his expressions, with even horrifying figures coming across somewhat whimsical.
"Using the theme of anatomy and scientific illustration gave me a certain license to explore form for its own sake more than I might ordinarily, but I'm still looking at these anatomical concepts as a means of expressing the ways we perceive our own identities, which is an overriding theme in all my work," said Bret.
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As a relatively new Houstonian, Rachel (newly transported from Chicago) has shown less work locally. Last year she was part of a show at the Houston Fringe Festival that was very warmly received. She is particularly fond of the set-up for art at Dean's.
"Because it used to be a department store, the work on display in the glass windows is really out there in the public space; you can engage with the work from the sidewalk, just as a passerby," said Rachel. "When we were hanging the show, people walking down the street stopped and stared, and sometimes they mouthed or shouted compliments through the glass. It was great getting feedback like that from, literally, the man in the street."
The collaboration between the couple is a wonderful meeting of two famously demented minds, and Art Attack is hoping for much more from the Harmeyers in the future.
Jef With One F is the author of The Bible Spelled Backwards Does Not Change the Fact That You Cannot Kill David Arquette and Other Things I Learned In the Black Math Experiment, available now.