What the hell is going on in Fred Stonehouse's family album? The Wisconsin-based artist's new exhibition, Den of Secrets, explores Stonehouse's fascination with the common tendency of older family members to hoard the truth about close relatives and distant ancestors. Stonehouse filters this proclivity through his paintings, which draw equally from the religious iconography of Mexican folk art and the garish distortions of circus sideshow advertisements. The results are funhouse portraits of disembodied heads sporting menacing unibrows and childlike crowns, with frequent appearances by floating skulls and deformed animals. The truth about family members couldn't possibly be more disturbing than these febrile imaginings — could it? Spend a little time thinking about the dark horses lurking in the more gnarled sections of your own family tree, and you'll begin to suspect that Stonehouse didn't go far enough in his mythologizing. Den of Secrets opens with a free public reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, September 25, at the Philip Slein Gallery (1319 Washington Avenue; 314-621-4634 or www.philipsleingallery.com). The show remains up through Saturday, October 31, and the gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday.
Tuesdays-Saturdays. Starts: Sept. 25. Continues through Oct. 31, 2009

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