The East End Gallery is currently hosting a group exhibition show dedicated to the long-running science fiction series Doctor Who called "Bigger on the Inside."
Fan art is something that is rapidly becoming more and more accepted within artistic circles. Whar’Hous, for instance, hosts an annual celebration of Star Wars-inspired art. Even many blockbuster works of literature such as 50 Shades of Grey initially started out as fan fiction before becoming original stories. It may be many years before things such as Tardises and Stormtroopers are seen as acceptable subjects to paint just as sunflowers and rich European ladies are in the higher galleries, but in East End, they take a more egalitarian approach.
“We’re very open here,” says Lisbeth Ortiz. “We’re a community gallery, and we’re happy to have more off-the-wall themes.”
Ortiz has several works herself in the show. Her series of paintings on the Weeping Angels are powerful in their contrast, the gray angels coming out of total blackness. She also has a more mixed-media series of Doctor portraits painted in silhouette on wooden frames. No War Doctor, but it’s still a nice set. There’s also a touching painted tribute to the effect Amy Pond had on the life of Vincent Van Gogh that gives a new take on the standard “Tardis in Starry Night” theme you mostly see. Few people ever seem to tackle the sunflowers motif present in that episode, and Ortiz renders Karen Gillan’s iconic mane of red hair with the same distinctive color style Van Gogh used.
If you’re looking for a more local approach, Pily contributed several paintings setting the Tardis in Houston landmarks. There’s an excellent one that lands the phone box near the Downtown Aquarium, with the Ferris wheel mimicking the one on the Thames River that features so prominently in the first episode, “Rose.” It’s her study on Discovery Green that I like best, though. The Tardis is placed near Margo Sawyer’s freestanding work “Synchronicity of Color,” giving the painting a true bigger-on-the-outside feel.
By far my favorite series in the whole show was the work of Lowbrow Pilgrim. He works in a pawn shop by day, and that aspect colors what he creates a great deal. His primary showing was a series of five album covers replacing human figures with The Doctor’s enemies. “The Velvet Dalek” is probably the best one on sheer artistic skill, but my heart belongs to “The Ood: Song of The Beast CATTLE CALL.” That race dances so effortlessly between comedic and terrifying that seeing one on a porch plucking out an old Hank Williams tune is both adorable and probably a good sign that something terrible is about to go down. It’s a truly inventive little bit of pop art.
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He also painted the Tardis overseeing two children feeding ducks with giant flames coming out of their heads…your guess is as good as mine, folks.
If there’s any complaint to be had with "Bigger on the Inside," it’s that too few artists seem to really explore the sense of mystery and adventure of the show. The Doctor, his enemies and his Tardis become icons instead of active subjects. There are exceptions. Franscisco Castro’s Gallifreyan writings on wood feel genuinely artifact-y, but a lot of fan art works never make you ask what’s happening to the subjects because you already know. If fan art is going to ascend to more gallery shows, then we need fewer re-creations and more, well, creations.
Still, it’s Doctor Who, and by that measure it’s just lovely. Catch "Bigger on the Inside" before it dematerializes.
"Bigger on the Inside" runs at the East End Gallery through Friday, June 5.