SCOTTY VERA: EAT THIS
Track 16 Gallery, Santa Monica
March 8 through April 5, 2008.
"As he explores issues of crustaceanism and Dom Deluisetude, emerging Los Angeles painter, Scotty Vera works in a wide variety of media and styles. The one unifying feature of his work is that each contains an image of a lobster and Dom Deluise."
THE Magazine: COLUMN D
Scotty Vera, Submerging Artist
By Doug Harvey
The last time I saw Scotty Vera was at his opening at Track 16 Gallery in March 2008, one of five concurrent solo shows arranged by Jeffrey Vallance to accompany his spectacular Blinky the Friendly Hen 30th Anniversary Chapel. Scotty was wearing a neck brace and was kind of pissy to the people that came up to congratulate him on his show, but it was remarkable that he had made an appearance at all. He had been hiding under his bed for most of the previous week (the source of the neck pain) and had only — ahem — emerged because of plausible rumors that Dom DeLuise might be in attendance.
All of Scotty Vera’s extremely varied work — mostly mixed-media painting — has two steadfast points of continuity: each contains an image of a lobster (or parts thereof) and an image of Dom DeLuise. Around these peculiar twin anchors, Vera has orchestrated a torrent of preternaturally sophisticated visual concoctions — many humorous, some deadpan, some a little creepy – using a range of techniques from traditional oil paintings (Lobster Dom Rescuing Anne Frank from the Gestapo) to collage (Proposed Statue of David Amico Weeping the Shoulder Emblems of the Police Departments of Long Island) to performance-based video (Eat This TV: To Serve Man) riddled with art-historical and pop-cultural references, but also displaying a formidable visual inventiveness and a complex and original allegorical narrative streak.
Vera’s T16 show Eat This (named after DeLuise’s bestselling cookbook) comprised less than a quarter of his extant work at that time — a substantial oeuvre for an artist less than a quarter-century old with no postsecondary degrees under his belt, let alone one who is periodically afflicted with debilitating agoraphobia. I first met Scotty while visiting Jeffrey Vallance and other artists in Las Vegas. Scotty was a teenager, the only child of a single-parent family. His mother was a blackjack dealer at the Golden Nugget, and Scotty would be holed up alone in the Living Desert Apartments — where Vallance and other Vegas artists also lived — sometimes for days at a time. Vallance, the Rev. Ethan Acres, and others (including myself) recognized and nurtured Scotty’s talent, eventually helping him find placement at Claremont and UCLA, though his occasional inability to leave his bedroom sabotaged any possibility of matriculation.
Scotty’s theoretical underpinnings have always been elusive, as are many of the details of his life. He claims to be the surviving half of a pair of conjoined twins, and does have a scar in a plausible place, though his mother would just sigh and roll her eyes when queried on the matter. On the other hand, that was her response to almost everything. At one point he claimed DeLuise as his father but has since recanted. His chance to publicly articulate his odd but compelling iconography came in the form of a panel discussion for Vallance’s extravaganza last March, but Vera was a no-show, and has apparently been holed up — intermittently communicating via e-mail — ever since.
With the recent demise of DeLuise, there has been a flurry of interest in Vera’s work, and his work has been included in recent or upcoming shows in Pittsburgh, Montreal, and Sweden, though it’s unlikely he’ll make the openings. The last I heard he was plotting out a hand-painted animation rock opera expanding the Lobster Dom Rescuing Anne Frank scenario to feature length.
I always wonder just how many great unknown artists there are, how many Henry Dargers hidden away, working for a lifetime on some quirky, self-rewarding personal vision. Scotty Vera may not have what it takes to become an art star, but I wanted to take this opportunity to direct some attention at someone who does nothing to seek it out, to honor such single-minded devotion and purity of motive, even if it never emerges from under the bed.