Channeling the Inner Child: Ryan Dean's Colorful Cabbage Patch

This weekend has certainly been about channeling my inner childhood.  As a child of the 80's (I don't want to hear it) doing things like spending the evening at the ballpark downtown, lying on blankets and towels while eating ice cream bars and watching a rag-tag group of kids seek the treasures of One-Eyed Willie (Points if you know the movie) are the perfect night out.

Of course, one can't simply stop at The Goonies if one is really going to go all out.  I mean, heck, Girls just wanna have fu-un.  Oh girls... Well you get the point.

Logging on (what would we do without the internet) to one of my favorites sites listing every art event taking place in San Diego my eye was caught by a rather random description "...hand-decorated Cabbage Patch dolls" followed by "coated with melted wax".  There was no way a child of my caliber was going to miss out.

Kensington Gallery on Adams just after passing the all too familiar Kensington sign, is one of those off the beaten path types of galleries that serves up a healthy dose of the not so familiar.  Tonight, it was Ryan Dean, the mastermind behind the melted crayons and oddly decorated dolls making up the show Kaleidoscope of Colorful Kids.  Confronted at once by a birdcage and dolls shoes covered in a litany of rainbow flavored Crayolas, the intrigue begins.  And then the Cabbage Patch dolls begin to appear.

"...realizing the body was full canvas, I started drawing on that instead of my sketchpads," quips Ryan Dean, " and it just kinda traveled from there."

I know what you're thinking. Dean must be a few bricks short of a Mason's Hall.  The reality is that he's really a rule-breaking genius.  Think about it.  Who hadn't, during their childhood years, wanted to take a Sharpie or one of those markers that smelled like various chemically laden fruits to whatever toy they happened to have.  For me, that toy was my sister (yes... there were moments).  But to the girls in the family it was their Cabbage Patch.  I'm certain that there were one or four dolls in my sister's nursery wearing not-so-OEM makeup. It's a bit of punk rock meets anarchy meets tribal tattoo.  It's like Cabbage Patch created a doll for the white trash tattoo laden in all of us.  Not to mention, when the doll features "knuckle tattoos" yet continues to sprout it's Raggedy Ann like yarn hair, you can't help but smirk just a bit.

"the after-drip, the excess, that's what I got addicted to, all of those little particles.  None of that wax was actually dripped on to that piece of wood; it was dripped onto something else, splattered to capture that."

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As for the melted wax, I'll admit, I had my fair share of melted Crayolas.  However, mine were most likely the result of either leaving them in a hot car or in the sun or just somewhere plain hot.  MENSA wasn't exactly knocking on my door.  Either way, what is intriguing about Dean's wax pieces aren't exactly the final products themselves.  Dean, unlike many other artists, eschews the final product (though many are available for purchase...) and focuses instead on the left overs, the drips of Crayola left behind after coating things like Maker's Mark bottles.  His "Excess" series is just that, the remnants of his other works.  And yet, even those remnants are pieces of art in and of themselves.

In short, a gallery of melted crayons and semi-tattooed Cabbage Dolls isn't exactly the most refined of art exhibits but it most certainly captures a moment in time. Now... if only he'd drip the melted wax onto the Cabbage Patch....

Kensington Gallery | www.kensingtongallery.org
Kaleidoscope of Colorful Kids, the art of Ryan Dean, runs until October 1st, 2014. 


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