Pop Gore Art: Paintings by Tyler Benjamin Speas

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Art is only limited by imagination and craft. When you find an artist who has a big ability to dream with a fine set of skills you get a show worthy of studying. This is the case with Speas’ recent exhibition entitled “Guts and Stuff.” When I spoke with Speas at his opening, he gave me some insight into the work.

Speas likes to create discomfort in his viewers. As it states on his website: “Being uncomfortable helps you to grow.” Working with pen and ink and acrylic paint, his paintings have a graphic quality in both senses of the word. They are both covering a disturbing subject and they are rendered vividly.

On one canvas, the artist has cut his face off revealing a nest of multicolored guts lurking just beneath the surface. At this point in the transformation, the guts are still inside and we see that the colorful caterpillars that crawled inside of his ear have been living inside the artists’ face and are now in cocoons. This introspective canvas may be an allusion to Van Gogh, another great redheaded painter, who famously portrayed himself after cutting off his own ear. He was an artist with a lot of guts, too.

The guts series started with a self portrait during the pandemic. The painting works because of the humor of the concept and the friendliness of the image. The pink, orange, and green guts spewing out of Speas’ wide open mouth accompany a collection of butterflies suggesting a beautiful metamorphosis instead of merely a disgusting one. Rendered like a comic book, the image asks the viewer if this character’s superpower is to barf beautifully.

This triptych concludes with the full transformation of the artist into a man made entirely of guts. He gives the viewer a double thumbs up gesture assuring us that he is untroubled by his change. Check out the full exhibition with more work from this series before the month is up, and visit the artist at his website Blood on Brushes, to learn more or to contact him to purchase a canvas or the series.

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