Visual Arts

Laugh In

On a recent Friday night, I made the most unattractive facial expression of my life — on purpose.

I was imitating my pedophilic middle-school bus driver, complete with underbite. Later, I traveled across a parking lot with a hideous limp to illustrate a story about my best friend who once decided to wrap her entire leg in packing tape, rendering her incapable of walking normally. Lately, I've come to notice something unsettling about myself: I will do anything to make people laugh — to a point where I compromise my physical attractiveness and ruin my chances with cute guys.

So, naturally, when a piece of art makes me crack up, I'm wooed. Such is the case with paintings by Scooter LaForge at Antoine Proulx furniture design studio and show room. LaForge earned a degree in painting at U of A and then gained artistic success in San Francisco and New York. He displays a hilariously morbid approach to subject matter that ranges from popular icons to everyday urban scenes, employing an immature and naive style to add to the humor — which one can assume is in opposition to the training he received from his college painting professors. Even if he truly lacks the technical skill, his use of color and expert arrangement of composition outs him as a person with visual training. So in the same way that I will ugly it up for a laugh, LaForge risks harsh judgment of his artistic talent to successfully communicate his kooky sense of humor.

In a work titled George Clooney Drools for an Oscar the artist, in what seems to be an intentional immature and splotchy painting style, renders the celebrity with a blank stare and a perfect line of blue drool seeping from his parted lips. It's not a spitting image of the actor and the skill level is almost childlike. But it works because the silly visual quality is part of the joke. I can picture the artist roughly blobbing paint on the canvas and thinking, "That George Clooney . . . what a fucking boob."

Another of my favorites is Dead Bird With Bud, in which a bloody bird carcass and an empty can of Budweiser lie on a simple bed of flat green ground. White daisies awkwardly jut upward, and some have smiley faces in the center. It looks like a painting by some deranged third-grader — and if that were the case, it would be time for a parent-teacher conference.

Yes, they are hilarious, but they aren't just simple gags. There's a strange darkness to them that leaves me wondering why LaForge is compelled to paint ridiculous and somewhat morbid things in such a naive way. Perhaps he chooses to see the trite aspirations of George Clooney and the urban waste of birds and beer cans — both which can be depressing in their own right — as fodder for a hearty, inappropriate laugh. And I've gotta love him for that.