Comic book heroes are slowly but steadily fighting their way into the world of fine art.
A new exhibit called “Superheroes: Good, Evil & Everything in Between” debuts at 516 Arts and features the works of artists from across the country.
It consists of paintings, comic book art, short films, portraits, sculptures and other multimedia artwork of “heroic representations of humanity’s light side, dark side and all shades in between,” according to the 516 Arts website.
Neilie Johnson, a pop culture journalist who was invited by 516 Arts to be a co-curator of the exhibit, helped select the artwork that will be on display from Saturday through Jan. 7, 2012.
“We wanted a broad variety as far as geographically and medium, and a wide range of fine artists who are all working on using superheroes as a theme,” Johnson said. “We received a lot of good stuff, but what we have now represents the strongest of what we received.”
Esteban Bojorquez, a 62-year-old artist who lives in Santa Fe, said he was thrilled and surprised to have his work — a 10-foot sculpture — selected for the show.
“Usually, you submit a piece of work, and nine out of 10 times you get rejected, but in this case I actually got in the show, so it’s cool,” Bojorquez said. “It’s a wonderful space. It’s a great, great venue to be at.”
Bojorquez said his sculpture, “Mr. Bends,” falls into the “in between” category because the figures arms are stretched out wide, which might make it seem like an affable character, but its one eye and gigantic stature could also be mistaken for a creature with malicious intentions.
Another Santa Fe-based artist, Jolene Yazzie, said she was surprised that she got into the show, especially when she found out her work would be displayed alongside the work of Aaron Noble, an artist she admires.
“I was like, ‘He’s going to be here? Are you serious?’” Yazzie said. “I really can’t wait to meet him. It’s really cool.”
Yazzie, whose work depicts women warriors, said she grew up in the same era as Noble when artists such as Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld and Sam Kieth were giving comic books a new look in the late 80s and early 90s. This, along with stories about women dealing with difficult circumstances, influenced her work.
Aaron Campbell, a comic book artist and painter whose work will also be featured at the exhibit, said superheroes are appealing because they are ultimately about normal people.
“The vast majority of characters were normal people to begin with,” he said. “They find themselves in extraordinary situations where they have powers that no other human could have.”
Johnson said superheroes become more popular in uneasy historical times, whether they be political or economic.
“I think people are needing an escape right now,” she said.
“They’re needing to feel like they have control or power over what’s happening to them when maybe they don’t.”
Whatever the reason for the popularity of comics and superheroes, Campbell said he is glad that galleries, such as 516 Arts, have become more accepting to comic art as the years have gone by.
“It’s interesting and encouraging that galleries — serious galleries — are starting to treat the whole superhero thing and comic thing much more seriously now that it’s become such a common feature of pop culture,” he said.