Ralph Pugay’s paintings depict scenes from everyday life that have been turned on their heads, and infused with humor, heavy doses of the absurd, and a general sense of existential dread. He mines ideas from philosophy, pop culture, and conversations with friends to inspire these bizarre scenes that in some ways are reminiscent of Gary Larson’s Far Side comics for their use of both visual and verbal plays on words. However, Ralph’s colorful tableaus seem like they’re most interested in the sincere yet often futile ways that us humans try to control the unpredictable and unforgiving world that we live in.
In a painting called Native Nukes, a stereotypical native tribe dressed in grass skirts assembles a nuclear warhead outside their huts. Mermaid Lecture shows a mermaid slouched in a wheelchair in front of an elementary school class. She addresses the students with a microphone as their teachers stand be hind her approvingly. In the unsettling painting Dog Stabbing Contest, a crowd of cartoonish figures stands outside a pen, cheering the three men inside who are chasing dogs around with knives. And in a painting called Morning Mourning a woman places a Starbucks cup on her loved one’s grave — her own Starbuck’s cup at her side.
Ralph has painted dozens of scenes like this, and he recently had two exhibitions of his work in Oregon — one called Vanishing Totalities at Ditch Projects, and the other called Night-Tide Daytripping at Rocks Box Gallery. Ralph is based in Portland, and I spoke with him over the phone about his work, how he comes up with the ideas for his paintings, and what happened when Ralph was contacted by a stranger who disapproved of a painting that showed a man doing inappropriate things to a lion.
+Chicken Pox Orgy
Your Business is Your Business
Dog Stabbing Contest
Steve Making Love to a Shark
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