“I’m calling it the creepy show,” artist Xavier Lopez says, giggling. He’s referring to his upcoming exhibition for this week’s art walk at The Mercury – the underground club on East Union and 10th. Along with belly dancers and DJs spinning post-punk and shoegaze, Lopez will show a mix of new and old, but will mainly stick to his “gothy” creations – paintings that feature animated, wide-eyed characters and massive, toothy grins, along with skulls and skeletons. “There will be cute animals, too. My art tends to be a mix between cute and creepy,” he says between laughs.
Lopez grew up in Montclair, East LA, in the ‘80s. On growing up there, he said that he and his brother could have easily ended up in gangs if it weren’t for nerdiness (the Star Wars variety) and going to museums like La Brea Tar Pits and LA County Museum of Art. Loped remembered seeing Andy Warhol’s “Brillo Boxes” as a child. Though his father curled his lip at pop art, the movement mesmerized Lopez. From a young age, he was inundated with art, and knew that he would go on to pursue it professionally.
He received his undergraduate degree from University of Nevada, Reno, walking away with a BA in philosophy, literature, and art, and continued his graduate studies at the University of California Davis. After graduating from Davis, he headed to Europe, living in France, Germany, and London for five years, which is when he started to focus more on painting and less on sculpting. He recalled visiting museums and being inspired by artists who set up their easels and canvas and went to work, reinterpreting the art on the walls.
After living in Europe, Loped moved to Seattle to visit his brother and decided to settle in. He plunged into the Seattle arts scene six years ago, when he first moved to Capitol Hill. Lopez was on the bus carrying a collection of roughly 20 pieces of art from his ex’s to his new place when a guy sitting next to him asked if he could take a look. The guy turned out to be Kevin Mckouen, owner of the former Orange Splot Gallery in Fremont. After taking a look at Lopez’s art, Mckouen wanted to feature him at the next show at the gallery.
At that show, Lopez met muralist Ryan Henry Ward and started what would become a “magical” collaboration. During the show, they left the gallery to take a break and share ideas about what art meant to them.
“Ryan and I decided we were going to do two things; a) make every part of our lives somehow associated art, so that it’s all feeding in on itself and b) We’re going to use every single talent, every bit of creativity to further art or our idea of what art should be,” Lopez said.
Since then, Lopez has been trying to inject this idea into the city of Seattle. While he watches the transformation of the neighborhood, he worries about its future and its declining reputation as the culturally diverse heart of Seattle.
On a blog post for the Seattle P-I, Lopez expressed his desire to see Seattle clothed in art; “I want to see more queer, gay, and lesbian art. More bisexual art. More transgendered art. More asexual art. Hell! I want to see it all, everywhere – indoors and outdoors, in city halls and building walls, in porn shops and churches on the sides of buses and all over billboards and on and in every single bank in this town!”
His philosophy is to keep creating. Simply put, like Nike, Lopez said, “Just do it.”
And he does. Lopez is currently working on a graphic novel featuring “The Muse,” a whimsical dark-haired girl with a haunting grin and large, dizzying eyes; she’s a character who continues to show up in his murals and paintings.
You can find Lopez’s prints, along with Ryan Henry Ward’s work, in Groovy Stuff, a new gallery that just opened in the old Sea Shepherd gallery location near Pike Place Market. Lopez is currently working on a mural titled “Into the Deep End: Fairy Tales” in West Seattle (at the corner of Southwest Roxbury Street and 17th Avenue Southwest). He’s also a finalist in four categories in the Seattle Mural Project; this summer, Lopez will paint a mural on the Narwhal stage at Sasquatch with Ryan Henry Ward.
Stop by The Mercury this Thursday to check out some of Lopez’s creepy stuff.
The Mercury at Machinewerks is located at 1009 East Union Street. More information about Xavier Lopez can be found at http://xavierlopezjr.blogspot.com/.