East Mountains’ artist Santiago Perez is showing his softer side in a solo exhibition at the Oasis Learning Center through April 22.
The 16-piece installation titled “The Fantastical World of Fantomas: The Imaginative Paintings of Santiago Perez” is a genuine tour de force by one of the most talented and hardest working artists in New Mexico.
Perez began giving his artistic side serious attention long before his retirement from the United States Air Force with gallery exhibitions in Germany, Colorado Springs, Colo., Denver and other venues.
Since his retirement and move to his home and studio south of Tijeras, Perez emerged as an artistic force with numerous exhibitions in Santa Fe, Albuquerque and many other locations in both museum and gallery settings.
His style and sensibility are an amalgamation of inspiration from Renaissance artists like Hieronymus Bosch, cartoonists like Robert Crumb and a wild combination of current news events, old time Saturday movie and television cartoons, a broad musical spectrum, global mythology, European history and politics. Perez filters all of these sources through his own sardonic and yet insouciant view of life.
Perez displays a wide range of compositional formats from a single figure and animal in “Baby Snookums Walks with Harry, Her Favorite Reptile” a young girl with a winged alligator, a diptych titled “The Two Brothers (Who Had More in Common Than You May Think)” and a mural scale fantasy landscape titled “The Murgatroyd Pilot” that could be a still from an animated science fiction movie.
In “Baby Snookums Walks with Harry, Her Favorite Reptile,” Perez opens the door into the huge realm of the history of human interaction with animals that we tend to want to tame.
Snookums’ winged alligator follows a lineage through time reaching back to the serpents in ancient Egypt, India and Mesoamerica, wolves turned domestic dogs and lions turned domestic kitty cats all around the world.
The painting itself has a soft focus feeling that lends it a dreamlike quality while avoiding obvious surrealistic references. The sky and water reflections add another dimension with echoes of the globe replete with land forms that emulate our world map.
This large painting exudes a comprehensive global awareness.
The Aborigines of Australia while out hunting relax into a running meditation that they describe as a union with the two brothers. Perez explores brotherly relationships in “The Two Brothers (Who Had More in Common than You May Think)” a single canvas diptych that juxtaposes cartoon style with science fiction portrait work.
The painting could illustrate the opening of a novel about the humor and pathos of modern living.
Sylvester the cat who often exclaimed “Heavens to Murgatroyd” would love to ride on Perez’ unlikely to fly machine in “The Murgatroyd Pilot” a five by five foot mural brimming with science fiction fantasy.
“The Murgatroyd Pilot” has human hands and may be a bird costume worn by a human being. The dream of flight has been with us since our humble beginnings.
One of the most often used descriptions of freedom is to be able to “fly like a bird.” The billowing exhaust pipe spewing dark smoke into the air reveals the true cost of flying humans.
This is a wonderful show in an alternative gallery space. The Oasis organization is a national nonprofit educational institution that offers educational programs for seniors 50 and over alongside health and social programs to enhance the aging process. Check it out, staff members are very friendly.