Jason Butcher shows movie madness at As in a Mirror, Dimly 

Artist's gessoed wood drawings full of intricate twists and turns

KNOCK ON WOOD: “Insert Erection Joke Here” by Jason Butcher

Courtesy Beep Beep Gallery

KNOCK ON WOOD: “Insert Erection Joke Here” by Jason Butcher

Jason Butcher presents the drawings of As in a Mirror, Dimly, his current Beep Beep Gallery show, as snapshots from the set of a hypothetical movie, even down to the lighting and soundboards painstakingly drawn into nearly every scene. The works are rich, velvety, and extraordinarily detailed — all done with an architect's mechanical pencil on gessoed wood. In some of the works, Butcher has applied the white base coat more lightly, which preserves the texture of the wood grain and, once colored over with graphite, gives the look of a gray and white plaid. Many of the drawings seem plucked from movie trailers, alluding to impending scenes of graphic violence or sex before cutting to the aftermath. But as the viewer moves through the gallery it becomes apparent that the narrative is more concerned with the actors behind the scenes rather than the characters in the movie.

The story begins with "After Casting the Glass Axe." In it, an unsuspecting long-haired man naps on a table, and is shadowed by a scrawny mustachioed guy clutching an axe. A couple of innocuous scenes follow. "Arrival on Set" features the same mustachioed man entering an empty soundstage, now with a briefcase in hand. "Insert Erection Joke Here" humorously depicts the long-haired man naked but for a tube sock on his left foot. He is covering himself with a plank of wood (ha, ha) and peeping through its knothole.

Sex scenes follow, building on the tension created in "...Glass Axe." "Golden Hour," "A Break Between Takes," and "How the Left Hand May Control the Right" depict the extracurricular activities that might occur on movie sets. In this case, the long-haired guy and the sole female actor are either making a lot of erection jokes or having wild, messy sex. Which may explain why the mustachioed man had murder on the mind.

The second to last drawing, "When Confronted by the Animatronic Head the Wig Should Slide Back in Sudden Surprise," hints that the long-haired guy may actually have been beheaded. The title recalls a director's cue, yet the mustachioed man — who has put on a long-haired wig — seems genuinely surprised that this corpse has come back to haunt him.

James McConnell, co-owner of Beep Beep, explained the conflict between the two male characters as I made my third or fourth round through the gallery, searching for a motive. "The one with the mustache is supposed to be the artist. The woman is his wife," he said, pointing across the room at a brunette in retro glasses with a newborn baby snuggled against her chest. "The other guy is kind of his alter ego."

This information, along with the baby in the final wood panel, "A New Character is Introduced," reveals the story to be the artist's unfinished fictionalized memoir. Butcher's alternate life full of intrigue gives the series emotion and creates empathy for the anti-heroes. The best villains often have some degree of vulnerability or humanness that allows the viewer to identify with them. Butcher takes that trope a step further by creating an exciting world in which the heroes and villains are one in the same.


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