ARTIST OF THE MONTH: An astronaut mutt makes quite an artistic muse – at least for Valley creative Jeff Falk, who channeled his childhood memories into mixed media artworks for the New Translations exhibit at Tempe Youth Library Gallery.
One of his five pieces in the show, “Laika,” conveys a memory of growing up in Kansas. One night, Falk’s father took him and his brother outside and explained that a Russian dog named Laika had just shot into space on Sputnik 2.
The dog died on his mission, and the multimedia collage on canvas pays homage to the canine’s contributions. It is layered with a portrait of the dog done in black acrylic paint and ditto sheets from Falk’s school days. “It is the 1957 Jeff collaborating with the 21st-century Jeff,” Falk says.
Born in Nebraska and raised in Kansas, Falk moved with his family to Phoenix in 1959 and has been a fixture in the local art scene since 1984. His aesthetic, rendered in mediums from experimental performance art to creative collage, frequently carries a dark vibe, as in his piece “A Good Scare,” which depicts a menacing skull with glowing orange eyes. Falk says the design is based on a kid’s Halloween costume box from the 1950s. “Adults see it as edgy or creepy, but in the Youth Gallery, kids respond to it,” Falk says.
The artist, 60, says he feels compelled to create.“Sometimes I feel I don’t have a choice,” he says. “I have to find a way for the energy to come out. It is like mental constipation – eventually it will come out.”
Falk’s work is in permanent collections at the Tucson Museum of Art, Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum, the Phoenix Airport Museum at Sky Harbor and more. New Translations is on display through April 25 at Tempe Youth Library Gallery, 3500 S. Rural Rd.