Seeing glimpses of home in Red Deer artist’s strangely intriguing Dead Cities exhibit

Jason Frizzell is the dean of the School of Creative Arts at Red Deer College.

Jason Frizzell’s Dead Cities exhibit is about going home — which isn’t as bleak as it sounds.

The intriguing sculptures displayed at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery tell a post-apocalyptic tale. But the emphasis is on ‘post,’ said the local artist, who feels a redemptive message underlies his latest strange creations.

Many of Frizzell’s small dioramas are about transformation or rebuilding, including one called The Reanimation of Professor Tidwell. The steampunk-ish sculpture shows a tiny man in top hat and waistcoat sitting in a chair, while two large pieces of sci-fi equipment — proton blasters? ray guns? — are pointed at his head.

Is Tidwell about to be raised from the dead? Transported back in time? Frizzell isn’t big on revealing narratives, but admitted it could very well be either scenario. His goal is creating art that draws in viewers and lets them make their own determinations. To reveal too much, said Frizzell, is to not give observers enough credit for bringing their own ideas to the table.

Dead Cities plays with notions of home and place. The artist also finds “fascination and hope in the idea of struggle,” whether emotional or physical.

For instance, Frizzell sees a hopefulness in Gradual Decline into Disorder, in which tiny figures are uncovering a large boiler-like machine that’s partially sunken into the earth. Something that’s fallen into decay is now being recovered, he explained.

Return to Dust initially looks like a placid scouting scene. But while the pup tent featured in the diorama “feels like a safe space,” Frizzell said the world outside it— as indicated by a tiny man wearing a gas mask — is an ominous environment.

Frizzell, who studied visual arts at Red Deer College and the Universities of Calgary and Victoria, is inspired by the Mad Max movies of the ’80s. This is glimpsed in his The Ocean is a Memory, and Well-Worn Path Through the Aftermath. Both involve railway contraptions and trees.

While there’s a psychological darkness to his work — especially in Today We Burned a Liar, in which a desolate donkey observes a pole with ashes at its base — Contact deals with lighter subject matter. Frizzell said the alien snake descending to earth pays homage to schlocky, low-tech horror movies.

“I like B monster movies, like The Blob.

Frizzell, who’s Dean of the School of Creative Arts at Red Deer College, usually exhibits in Edmonton or Calgary, so is pleased to have this local opportunity to show his work, including 50 of his drawings.

The show continues to Jan. 8.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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