Wild kingdom: Dimock lets the animals loose

Did you hear about the Egyptian Cobra that escaped from the Bronx Zoo last spring? While people panicked that a poisonous snake might turn up on their doorsteps, one Twitter user delighted in the situation, tweeting hilarious messages as “Snake on the Town.” For example: “Gonna listen to some Jazz tonight. You know I love some great flute work. Do they provide it or is it bring your own basket?”

The idea of wild animals roaming domestic landscapes is usually disturbing— think Jumanji and 12 Monkeys— but artist Kaki Dimock, whose exhibit, “In the Country, Under the Sea” currently hangs at The Garage, takes more of a “Snake on the Town” approach. Her small and colorful pen-and-ink drawings depict a world where huge whales swim beneath Andrew Wyeth’s house and a giant zebra holds court atop Monticello’s octagonal dome. Yet somehow these out-of-place and oversized animals seem right at home. Even a gargantuan sharp-toothed barracuda lurking unseen beneath weathered buildings on a Portland dock is more charming and comical than monstrous.

Dimock’s technique complements her whimsical subject matter and has a lot to do with the images’ magic. Her line drawings are flat and intentionally naïve, but beneath their simple sweetness is a sophisticated understanding of color and pattern. For instance, Dimock echoes the wine colored trim of a giraffe-topped green building at the center of “Snake Pit” in two ostriches racing toward the structure, as well as in fern-like plants growing in an underground sea. Similarly, she repeats the black and white horizontal stripes of twin thick-trunked trees flanking the building in the sinuous bodies of 10 snakes rising up the middle of the drawing to flick their tongues beneath the basement.

Many of Dimock’s scenes offer two planes of action— an aboveground world and a watery subterranean arena— but three pieces on the gallery’s back wall combine the two to create charmingly surreal woodland scenes. Within stylized forests, small land-dwelling animals “walk” giant sea creatures that float among the trees. An owl leads a shark. A deer is tethered to a catfish. And a fox walks an octopus. The latter is particularly amusing since Dimock places the leash around the upper head of the octopus above its eyes, while its tentacles drift out behind it among the branches.

Dimock’s quirky sense of humor and playful compositions are irresistible. Like Snake on the Town’s tweets, her out-and-about animals leave viewers smiling.
Kaki Dimock’s exhibition, “In the Country, Under the Sea,” is on view through September 30 at The Garage, 250 First St. NE (across from Lee Park). Viewings by appointment: contact Sam Bush at samuelpbush@gmail.com or Kaki Dimock at kakidimock@hotmail.com.

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