We spend a good deal of our waking lives under the direction of practical tasks and concerns. From the periphery of this pragmatism the multifarious world leaks in. While you are filling a stapler or attempting to locate the invisible end on a spool of Scotch tape a wad of someone else's conversation about llama wrangling or accidental flatulence may fall into your ear and stick to your brain. While digging for a dill pickle you may glance up at your television just long enough to see a spider devouring a chick pea, or hear a man comparing chaos theory to smoke rising from an ashtray. Then that night you may have a dream about explaining particle physics to a classroom full of gassy llamas, while a very large spider eats the hummus you brought for lunch. For whatever reason our minds seem to need this kind of digressive and imaginative conduit. Our brains don't enjoy wads of random data stuck to them like old gum so they set them in a discursive narrative and send them on their way.
Fortunately this kind of discursive and digressive imagining is available during waking hours as well. Perry Allen of the Basement Gallery in downtown Boise is playing host to a couple of Boise's most accomplished and vibrantly digressive artists. Mike Flinn and Noble Hardesty, familiar to BW readers from their work within these pages, have been grouped together in the gallery's back rooms. The result is a space transformed by the kind of mental free-play we normally save for sleep. Both artists are obviously devotees of the cartoon image. Their lines flow. Their colors are lush and vibrant. Their images seem to be conceived in a kind of intuitive stream, and like cartoons, these paintings give the chaos and violence of the world a kind of otherworldly elasticity and buoyancy.
Flinn's major contribution, and a crowd favorite on opening night, is his 26-piece Alfalfabet. Take a word like alphabet, now add a dose of phonetic free-play and an odd reference to a vegetable: alfalfabet. Like the title Flinn starts with something conventional, (and what could be more conventional than each letter of the alphabet), and then he lets his imaginative line digress. As far as I can tell the resulting creations have no literal or metaphorical ties to the letter they describe. Rather than an exercise in meaning, these pieces are an exercise in free-range imagination. The colors bounce and the finishes are both lush and bold.
Hardesty's best work comes on his signature saw blades. This time around, however, he is using a very different palette. Before starting the pieces in this body of work he spent the better part of a week mixing what turned out to be around 90 shades and colors, which he refers to as Easter pastels. Whatever inspired such a dramatic, and in ways, limited range turned out to be right. The combination of those very innocent hues, the pure pale yellows, pinks, greens and blues, with the more menacing presence of the circular saw blade is a nice visual play on the way cartoons fill the shapes of menace and danger with bounce and gloss. The images on these blades follow the shape of their spin, the lines meander down a spiral path, but they sing a very different song than a saw blade normally sings. There are cartoon songbirds and what Hardesty refers to as very furry creatures. The images are cleaner and simpler this time around and as a result they seem less troubled and more finished. In combination with the rich opaque pastels they have been shot with a professional grade clear coat used on automobile finishes giving them a deep glossy translucence.
In addition to their individual works Hardesty and Flinn collaborated on a five-and-a-half foot crosscut blade. Fans of their work will want to see the way they alternated between 11-inch sections to create a seamless vision of a cartoon apocalypse.
Works by Mike Flinn and Noble Hardesty are on display through October at Basement Gallery, 928 Main St./Idanha Hotel, 333-0309.