Andrew Brandou and Anna Weber
Motel Gallery, 19 NW 5th (on Couch, between 5th and 6th), through Oct. 2

The only phenomenon that matches humanity's ability to feel pain, love, and anger is our ability to bury these emotions under layer after layer of lottery tickets, low fat ice cream, and Oprah reruns. Throughout history--from Aesop's fables to Orwell's Animal Farm--artists have attempted to short-circuit this denial by projecting their audience's neurosis and potential beauty on to the animal kingdom. Pigs have taught us about despotism and donkeys about depression.

Through the end of the month, Motel Gallery offers two distinct takes on the wonderful world of critters, and if you try hard enough, you just might learn something about yourself. Andrew Brandou's After Audubon series gives me the rare opportunity to put watercolors and deadpan humor in the same sentence, while Anna Weber's hand-crafted soft sculptures demonstrate that when engaging in very human activities, tiny animals are way cuter than real people.

Partially based on the naturalist paintings of John J. Audubon, Brandou's watercolors create a world where the illustrations of your junior high biology book collide with pop culture and nostalgia. In Snow Hare, a seemingly frightened hare hunkers down in a smoking jacket while snow falls on a passing AT-AT Imperial Walker (or, for those who do not frequent Star Wars chat rooms: the evil four-legged walking vehicle from The Empire Strikes Back). Brandou's works maintain a consistent visual style, despite frequent allusions that careen from Hollywood film to Tony Millionaire's comic, Maakies. Humorous and intricate, they meld painstaking recreations of nature with bizarre, out-of-place imagery.

Anna Weber's tiny soft sculptures conjure visions of your most loyal childhood friends: stuffed animals. But her creatures don't sit on a bed waiting for you to return from your T-ball game; they have lives of their own. In Puppies a mother dog has pushed out four tiny offspring. The father dog gently pats her forehead with a cloth while a fifth puppy protrudes halfway out of her felt vagina. In other pieces we find a cuddly family of sea lions, nuzzling giraffes, and a rat going down on a bird. Huh, I guess we are just like animals.

Support The Portland Mercury