Christian Rex van Minnen's paintings are a surreal feast for the eyes. Influenced by the oddities of nature and the great masters of the Northern Renaissance, van Minnen creates figures of bulbous, blistery flesh fused together by flora and fauna within formal settings. It's this innovative approach to portraiture that has us simultaneously repeled and captivated while being heralded as a modern Giuseppe Arcimboldo.
As one of the artists participating in ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ opening February 23rd at Cella Gallery, I had a chat with this unique artist. Here van Minnen talks about his fascination with the beauty of horror, life growing up as the son of a preacher man, and why we should be weary to enter an Arby's bathroom after an art opening.
As the son of a Baptist minister, you spent the majority of your early years inside a church. What was it like growing up in such a religious environment and how did it nurture your art?
It was nice. the church was good to our family. what i remember most is drawing and hearing my father during sermons. i was the preacher's boy, so that garnered me a lot of attention. we stopped going to church when I was 5 or so, but the effects of church were profound and nothing but good. Tangentially, I find all this atheist fervor these days obnoxious. The only thing worse than a proselytizing Christian is a proselytizing atheist. Go buttchug some microbrews you white space devils:)
Your work is an eclectic mix of the perversions of nature and the charm of old world portraiture. When did your fascination with the paradox of beauty and horror begin to take shape?
hahaha, that's me: a charming perve. there was a point where it became necessary to see beauty in horror for the sake of survival. my experience of growing up is not necessarily a unique one but i chose to express myself visually, early on, and those closest to me didn't judge the often disturbing imagery i was drawing. very grateful for that. i like heavy things; there's more to experience and more to feel, and in general thats been my experience of life. i don't know any alternative way of experiencing reality really- i have a melancholic disposition.
Featured in Something Wicked This Way Comes are a couple of pieces from your Keyhole Portraits series. These works are composed of two panels with the first being a cutout silhouette of an old master that allows you to look through to the second panel revealing compositions of flora and fauna. Tell us more about the inspiration behind this series.
I was interested in the way a life encapsulates or captures part of a greater, shared whole. Though, even that which is encapsulated is transitory and ourselves, permeable. We are bullshit and stardust.
What’s the most memorable comment (or question) you’ve ever heard someone say about your work and why?
I can't remember. nothing that memorable, apparently. People mostly say stupid shit. Hopefully you just feel something and leave quickly to go cry and masturbate in your local Arby's bathroom.
When you’re not painting, how do you like to spend your free time?
Scowling, hanging out with my wife and talking about the universe and the flim (space in between things), going to museums or galleries, amateur archaeological expeditions, exercising, listening to records, eating salsa, fucking facebook.
If you weren’t an artist, what do you think your occupation would be?
Probably just a worker of some sort. Full-time shithead. I'm not good at anything but painting and i don't work well with others. I earned a Master's degree in Nonprofit Management (cosmic joke on me) hedging my bets that no one would ever buy my work. Working in arts-based nonprofits sounded appealing, until i worked in an arts-based nonprofit. I'm very very very grateful i get to do this thing all the time and there are beautiful weirdos out there who are willing to hang my work on their walls. It's kind of amazing. Thanks Stephanie!
View Christian Rex van Minnen's works in person on February 23rd at Cella Gallery. If you're in the Denver area in March, check out his latest works for his solo exhibit at Robischon Gallery.