current current artists exhibitions gallery

From Canada, 'Snowmen' with a quirky vision

by Jerry Cullum
for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Snowman People: Scott Griffin and Clint Griffin"

Through Jan. 19. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays. Price range: $495-$1,450. Barbara Archer Gallery, 1123 Zonolite Road N.E. 404-815-1545.

The verdict: Quirky and fascinating work from a couple of Canadian brothers.

"Snowman people" was the name Scott and Clint Griffin gave to the blurry, barely visible figures they saw on television in the remote part of Ontario where they grew up.

The fantasy world they created in childhood was the predecessor to images in their artwork. But their world today isn't an alternative universe, even if we don't always recognize the references.

Using an arc welder to shape relief figures on scrap metal, Scott Griffin creates reality-based images of bush planes and landscapes containing houses, trees and figures. Clint Griffin draws and collages mostly interior scenes in which the figures are based on the toy models he has collected since childhood.

Clint's drawings have a lively narrative agenda, though it's not easy to understand the story lines. For example, "Between the Chair and the Fridge (Self-Portrait)" is a strange picture of Clint alone in a boxing ring between a refrigerator and an easy chair, with a stove and a rearing horse off to one side. It could be a comment on fighting laziness, but then what's the horse doing there? Likewise, a Santa Claus figure, receiving the cheers of a crowd, stands incongruously beside an overturned, unplugged toaster. More straightforwardly, "Henry Kissinger" features two figures and a quote from the former secretary of state, "People use [sic] to ask me what to do -- now they ask me what to say."

Both brothers show a real sense of how to compose an energetic image, to mysteriously lyrical ends in Scott's metal pieces and to mostly comic ones in Clint's works on paper. Though they've had at least some training in art, the pure independence of their sensibility makes them true outsiders. They make a pleasingly contrasting duo, and this is unquestionably part of what accounts for their popularity. But the individual works hold up just fine in isolation, too.

Jerry Cullum is an Atlanta writer and the senior editor of Art Papers, a magazine of contemporary art.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, January 4, 2002, Page Q6