Visual Arts

Flight of Fantasy

Everybody has bad days. You know, the kind of day when you oversleep, realize you have no breakfast food in the house, painfully injure your foot on a broken office chair and get stood up by a client — all before noon. Sigh. I'm convinced there must be some order to the universe, because it was divine intervention that on a terrifically lousy Saturday afternoon I stumbled into Roy Wasson Valle's "Dreamhouse" at five15 Gallery. It's an uplifting, imaginative exhibition, and I couldn't help but smile (actually, giggle in an embarrassingly girlish way) while drinking in the scenery.

The walls of the small space are painted an intense turquoise blue and capped with a scribbled midnight sky. Valle, sporting a scruffy beard and glasses, was engrossed in his task of filling rows of sketched houses and shapes with thick black Magic Marker stripes. Beneath the houses are blue shelves holding clay figures, each with a distinct personality. The focal piece in the center of the room is a huge wooden dollhouse with puffy orange arms, a single closed eye, and bright pink lips. I imagined this must be what it would be like to stand inside of a Dr. Seuss book, albeit an adults-only version.

Take, for example, Annette, a half-avian, half-human figure named after the famous Mouseketeer. She wears nothing but a red-and-white polka-dot bikini bottom and some triangular tan lines where her top is curiously missing. It's a darling piece, but Valle does more than just charm. Every meticulous detail is intentional. Her pear-shaped body, with slightly bulging thighs and wide hips, displays an understanding of the female body as imperfect. A clay lighter and discarded cigarette instills her with a human vice, trapping the character somewhere in between reality and fiction.

Valle's magical menagerie boasts all manner of beasts, from a three-legged robot holding a leisure suit to a pink snake with a studded collar. Although most contain a visual double entendre, nowhere is Valle's obsession with sexuality more evident than in Hermy: Combo Calavera. A skeletal figure reclines in a fluffy red costume reminiscent of one of Maurice Sendak's "Wild Things." The suit is endowed with drooping breasts and both male and female genitals. It's the kind of piece that fills your heart with raucous laughter at the same time you're questioning what kind of deviant would populate his fantasy world with such a creature.

Sex isn't the only thing on Valle's mind. He takes a sharpshooter's aim at American morality with Happy Birthday AK, a small vignette featuring a clay rifle and a cake with 59 candles representing the number of years this personal killing machine has been produced. It makes a powerful political statement about the glorification of weaponry, especially during times of war.

I recrossed the threshold of five15 Gallery lighter and imbued with a sense of hope that I haven't felt since my college years. Gone were the rotten memories of stubbed toes and unreliable sources, the obscene gestures that normally would have accompanied my journey home in rush hour traffic. I was inspired to make a mental list of all the flights of fancy I had in my teenage years — sing in a band, visit the pyramids, write a novel. For a moment, I believed them all possible again. If my visit is any indication of what truly imaginative work can do for viewers, then the Valley could use more artists like Valle.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Wynter Holden
Contact: Wynter Holden