Dead Wood: A Conversation with Gary Ham

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So Halloween is kind of a big deal in these parts and we’re all stoked to bits as fright night creeps ever closer. We have two cracking exhibitions in store for the event: our second annual All Hallow’s group show, Bewitching II, and Dead Wood, a mini exhibit from the great Gary Ham. Our Steve Brown recently caught up with Gary to gab about the show and the surreal spookery he’s bringing to Route 66 Oct. 5th.

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Steve Brown: Let’s talk about your upcoming exhibition, Dead Wood. What’s the story with this new group of work?

Gary Ham: With the show taking place in October along side the Bewitching show, I thought it would be a lot of fun to keep my theme to creatures of the dead and an overall Halloween feel. I love drawing monsters and working in wood, so Dead Wood felt like the perfect title for the show. Usually the monsters might lurk behind the trees, but in this case, the trees became the monsters.

SB: Did you have a spooky tree outside your window as a kid, a la “Poltergeist”? That scene scared the living crap out of me when I was younger.

GH: YES! My brother and I shared a room as kids and right outside our window was a huge tree! When it was windy the branches would scrape against the window and terrify us. I feared the clown underneath my bed more than the tree, though.

SB: You’ve done Halloween colorways of Hermes and Morsels, and Christmas Android figures, and rumor has it that the Stranger Factory exclusive Wooper Looper is going to be in their “trademark colors”, which seems to always lean towards vintage Halloween. Are you a fan of holidays in general? It seems that a lot of the lowbrow and pop artists are all huge Halloween fans … is the spooky stuff your jam, or just a convenient tie-in?

GH: Hmm … rumors … is there ever any truth to them? :) Holidays are awesome! Halloween and Christmas are by far my favorites. Maybe it’s all the great childhood memories I have, but the entire month of October and December stir up giddiness in me. Halloween has the best decorations and it’s always fun trying to come up with a great costume. Vintage halloween design has definitely been an inspiration to me.

SB: Halloween and Christmas seem to be the only holidays that really get any love in designer toys. Have you considered taking a stand for Presidents Day or Arbor Day? Actually, with you working in wood and having a thing for trees … Arbor Day might be a good fit.

GH:  If I can’t go to the mall and get a photo taken with the holiday mascot, then is it really a holiday worth celebrating? Now Easter I can get behind. I still paint eggs and do easter egg hunts. In fact, that is how I proposed to my wife. I sent her on an egg hunt with riddles and clues that lead to the next egg. In the last egg was a note that asked her to marry me. Sorry, totally went off topic. Arbor day….when is that? Does it have a tree man at the mall? Will work give me the day off for it?

SB: I don’t think there’s a Tree Man at the mall, so maybe Arbor Day will be a bit lackluster for you. So tell us about Dead Wood … what can we expect? Are we going to be seeing spooky versions of your existing characters, or will these be all-new creations? Will any new recurring characters be making an appearance?

GH: Dead Wood will see old creations reincarnated while new ones brought to life. Hermees and Wooper Looper will make an appearance as will my newest vinyl toy, Monster Toytem. The Monster Toytem was first seen last year as a custom wood toy at Stranger Factory’s Winter Salon and now the toytem in vinyl form will be made available for the first time during Dead Wood. There may also be some hand painted wood monster pieces up for grabs that can mixed in with the vinyl toytems.

I have also been experimenting lately with pyrography on wood and will have some pieces on hand. The show is largely wood based, but I do have a few other mediums up my sleeve. Stay tuned.

Dead Wood opens at Stranger Factory Oct. 5 with opening reception from 6 to 9pm. Gary will be in attendance! The exhibition will be on display through Nov. 4th.

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