To remember and reconstruct not only the good times in one’s life, but also the uncomfortable, the painful, and the bittersweet, is an exhausting proposition. For most, this degree of self-exploration is hard to conceptualize even under normal circumstances. But for artist Jeffrey Beebe, this is his obsession, his life, and his work. Creating parallel universes filled with fantastical characters, unusual beasts, and alternative terrains, Beebe repackages the past and contextualizes a life.
Using his reality to fuel his imagination, Beebe illustrates large works on paper with visual descriptions of territorial flags, great battles of conquest, celestial maps, land maps of real cities, as well as the fictional country of Refractoria. In Beebe’s current show, The Battle of the Invoked Impossibility: Further Adventures in Refractoria, five years in the making, his structured and well-designed pieces have a certain medieval manuscript feeling about them. (Mr. Beebe might have played a few games of Dungeons and Dragons in his life, one might gather.) The work incorporates a great deal of his private life, including relationships with friends and loved ones, musical interests, and dating nightmares–to name a few–as well as common strange encounters that we all experience every day.
In his work, everyone has a name and a place and everything is there for a purpose. The reality we know is interwoven into the frame of the artist’s more magical realm. For instance, to represent his City of Sociopaths in “Common Flags, Standards and Badges of Western Refractoria,” Beebe creates a symbolic flag using Andy Warhol’s print of a banana originally designed for a Velvet Underground album cover. In “Global Cartograph of Refractoria,” the island called Cemetery of Kisses contains the “That’s Not What I Meant” mountain range and the forests of “Let’s Try That Again.” In Beebe’s work, ex-girlfriends are rendered evil witches and warrior queens, family members morph into multi-armed monsters swilling gin martinis, parents are replaced with odd religious figures, and friends are divided between monsters and knights. With sarcasm, wit, and a little malice, nothing and no one seems to be off limits.
Beebe’s complicated and intense images straddle the line between graphic novel and the work of 15th century Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch. While some may devalue his pieces as modern nonsense, the level of concentration, attention to detail, and extensive planning it took to assemble this body of work is undeniable.
“The Battle of The Invoked Impossibility: Furthur Adventures in Refractoria” January 8- February 21, 2015
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