Hanging off an entry wall in the Gateway Film Center is a colossal wooden sandworm—a zebra striped serpent with dull red eyes and conical teeth, hosting a smaller, fiercer snakehead inside of its mouth. Beside the sandworm is another Tim Burton touchstone—the head of a sulking goth man with scars on his cheeks and scissors for hands.
Paul Giovis’ artwork is juvenile.
Not his methodology or execution, but in the themes that are presented in his work, reconnecting us with whimsy, adventure, and that often forgotten playful idealism.
The most demonstrative of this concept lies on the opposite wall—a three-part homage to the classic Spielberg pirate drama, Hook. The triad of scenes is stylistically cohesive with the rest of the series—skillfully painted, film-inspired birch wood cutouts protruding from a mural of decomposing trees and jutting metal stars—but the Peter Pan-inspired series “All Grown-Ups Are Pirates” wholly articulates the sentimentalities of his message—that growing up kind of blows.
“There is such a positive message in never growing up,” Giovis said. “All of these movies are something people can relate to when they were a kid.”
Giovis’ Hook series was chosen by Gateway to be expanded for a gallery on fear, a perfect way to initiate their Halloween season. You will find Zuul from Ghostbusters kickin’ it with a hockey-masked Jason, chilling beside an endoparasitoid extraterrestrial from the Aliens saga.
“All of these characters I have painted could have been what you feared as a child—especially the fear of growing up and being miserable.”
Giovis explains how his time at CCAD helped combine the artistic lessons of the past with the cultural mindset of today—a postmodern attitude juxtaposing art nouveau sensibilities. He cites Alphonse Mucha as a major influence, whose aesthetic is reminiscent of what you might find on the label of an old absinthe bottle or on a new age tarot card—theatrical portraits of ladies surrounded by nature, adorned with flowers. “That stuff goes back to late 1800s early 1900s, and I guess in my work it is a mix of that old style and newer aged stuff, like tattoo and street art.”
He cites skateboarding culture as another influence on his creativity, a sentiment that echoes the juvenile spirit of his work, using his knowledge of building skate ramps and decorating boards to create his sculptural paintings.
“Art and skateboarding are my two outlets, where you just get away from everything. The stuff I have made for this has come across for building other things. Also, skateboarding is a huge art community in itself. Every single deck is a piece of art. A skate shop is essentially a gallery of graphics. It is these two things that I care about the most. I get so into it that it feels like it they are the only things I want to do.”
We finish talking while sitting at a small table in the corner of the Torpedo Room, an enclosed restaurant inside the Gateway Film Center. Beside us are a half dozen circular TVs fashioned to look like submarine windows, exhibiting an animated ocean flowing onscreen. The room is dimly lit and feels almost magical, a sensation that movie theaters should evoke. After all, this is why we see movies, to take us to that place.
Giovis’ work accomplishes just that—he reminds us to covet our imagination, to embrace our intrinsic romanticisms, and to remember that we are all just big kids running around in adult’s clothing. As that tiny, twinkling pixie that took us to Neverland once said, “imagination has no age, and dreams are forever.”
The Gallery at Gateway Film Center is a movie-themed art space housed in the theater and free to all ticket holders. Hours are 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
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