By Melissa Starker
22 June 2014
On an opening-night visit to “Good Grief” at the ROY G BIV Gallery, visitors were greeted with an environment that reached out to multiple senses.
The aroma of freshly sprayed fixative was in the air and classic country music filled the ears. For the eyes, there were walls covered top to bottom with drawings featuring cartoonish characters and a floor papered with a glossy, squiggly ink design as well as an installation suggesting that the creatures had popped off the walls to take up residence in the gallery.
“I’ve always been interested in spatial installation — transforming the gallery into another zone because that’s what my comics do,” said John Malta, whose work is featured on the floor and walls of the gallery alongside contributions from his fiancee, Nichole Senter, and their longtime friend, Michael Marine.
A teacher and freelance illustrator whose clients include The New York Times, Malta is based with Senter in Kansas City, Mo. The two Columbus College of Art & Design alumni and Marine, an illustrator based in Cleveland, provide pieces that are visually fun and full of pop-culture references — and personal in content.
The title makes reference to the artists’ admiration for Peanuts creator Charles Schulz. Though comical, their works have a tinge of darkness and wistful nostalgia.
Malta presents panels from the first issue of his comic book Baboom!The pieces are hung like wallpaper on one side of the gallery. Large, flat, free-standing versions of a couple of the characters rest nearby.
In 2012, while Malta and Senter were living in New York, she launched a comic to vent some of her anxieties about living there — centered on a socially awkward vampire named Baron von Badtooth. She has created an enchanting history for the character through childlike, humorously captioned portraits of old acquaintances in colored pencil and watercolor wash.
Marine offers two mixed-media installations that act as a visual record of recent travels to New Mexico and the South, and some time spent with his father. A gift from him, a decorative bottle, is incorporated into one of the works, next to an old cassette player loaded with the show’s soundtrack.