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    Say the word “art” out loud, right now. It immediately conjures: The Mona Lisa, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Monet’s Water Lilies, Starry Starry Night. It can be jarring for some to realize that real art isn’t regulated to those flattering interpretations of the human form, canvases etched with the impossibly picturesque. Art characterizes the more sinister side of the human condition, the dark corners of our psyche reflected in crayon and charcoal. This is obscurity that resonates within most, this darkness, will be celebrated on Sunday, June 12 at the first-ever Dark Market art festival.

    The Dark Market, which is in its first year, was conceived by Cathe Krabb, a UofL graduate with a degree in art history and a keen interest in the more out-of-the-way side of antiquity. Krabb explains that she has always found intrigue where others have had a tendency to be dismissive and this had led to a lifelong interest in the enigmatic. “[Oddities and curiosities] are fascinating,” says Krabb. “I find things that you don’t see every day really interesting and there is always a story behind everything.”

    This attraction to the obscurities of life has carried over into her professional career as of recent with the opening of her own art studio this past spring, Unorthodox, which houses a collection of less-than-traditional craft pieces. In the passing years, Krabb has noticed a rising interest in the uncelebrated side of art culture, and alongside her passion for oddities, this ascending curiosity is what led to the conception of the Dark Market.

    “As of recent, there seems to be a lot of interest in art surrounding things like oddities and curiosities,” Krabb says. “It began as a way of myself, my friends, and other people that do the same thing having an opportunity to find themselves in addition to reaching out to others and making their stuff available.” Since the conception of the Dark Market, Krabb has had a hand in nearly every aspect of the interests committed, in particular which artists will be featured at the June 12 event.

    “I handpicked everybody based on the kind of things that they make,” explains Krabb. “And this led to the name just kind of fitting with the night time theme in addition to a lot of the [art] surrounding that very same theme, involving things that are dark and what some people might see as morbid.”

    One of the talents involved with the Dark Market is local artist Kyle Howell, whose work is well within the same vein as that of the underlying purpose of the Dark Market. Howell described his interest in the lurid as something that has been with him for the majority of his life, and naturally, his curiosities of the strange carried over into his professional career as an artist.

    “I’ve always had a deep rooted passion for horror and the macabre, and actually started out as a special effects artist and prop fabricator,” says Howell. Unlike many, Howell embraces the reality of death when it comes to creating something than could be considered equal parts aesthetically pleasing and metaphysically engaging, which is why a good majority of his artistic efforts involve taxidermy and osteology.

    In his taxidermy centric pieces, Howell focuses on the stale nature of the rehearsed skill and brings new light to it by offering a filtered lens through which art goers can observe the age-old skill; he approaches the technique with a fresh perspective in mind. With his osteology heavy efforts, Howell tries to capture the macabre magic seen in his taxidermy pieces, but does so by utilizing the darker tones ubiquitous during the Victorian Era. 

    “Taxidermy and osteology allow you to bring life into pieces,” Howell says. “[They] show people a side of an animal that they don’t normally get to see.” The ability to find beauty where others might be apprehensive isn’t a practice that Howell was able to harness overnight, but instead was something that came about from years of experience and a burning curiosity of other artists and their efforts, a curiosity that was built on by including occasional fantastical elements to pieces that he found himself working on.

    “As I’ve worked with my craft over the years, I’ve drawn on the techniques and experiences of others while developing techniques of my own using skills I’ve gathered from years of experimentation,” he states. “While I always try and bring a sense of realism into my my pieces, I enjoy introducing a hint of fantasy.”

    Similar to Cathe Krabb, Howell shares the same enthusiasm about the potential that the Dark Market has when it comes to bringing a variety of artistic avenues together, each with a common theme in mind.

    “I look forward to the collective of artists from various mediums,” he says. “It’s a perfect opportunity or artists who don’t typically find homes at larger conventions to show their talents and make a name for themselves.”As Howell suggests, many artists involved with the Dark Market are striving to achieve notoriety both within and outside of the art community, two of these artists being S. Fisher Williams and Ryan Case.

    For S. Fisher Williams, inspiration isn’t something that is synonymous with the morbid elements of life, but instead is more widespread as the artist is able to find it in nearly every direction that he looks.

    “There is almost nothing that doesn’t inspire me,” Williams comments.

     

    Growing up, Williams found himself identifying with monsters and not for the obvious reasons, but rather the opposite as he gathered inspiration in the loneliness that they felt, a loneliness that he was very familiar with.

     

    “It’s hard to describe,” he says. “I was kind of a lonely kid, and I think that this had a major influence on the way I do drawings. I don’t do drawings of creatures that are as scary as much as they are sad.”

     

    Williams’ art and the monsters that he includes in his art are inherently out of this world, or the world as we perceive it; however, the monsters that the artist creates have overwhelming human elements to them, and this is what makes the works of S. Fisher Williams so captivating upon first glance.

     

    “When they’re not eating children, they’re kind of sad and lonely,” he says, whilst explaining how the dark tones of his work will run parallel with the theme of the Dark Market.

    Like Williams, inspiration for Ryan Case came about at an early age, inspiration that was discovered in direct response to the films and bits and pieces of pop culture that he was able to absorb. Case says that he remembers seeing all of the different monsters on screen and their presence in movie posters, and this ultimately had a major influence on the work that he would later go on to create.

    “It kind of developed into an obsession as I got older,” he explains. “I would see these things [in movies] and would try and make them better.”

    Case has gone on rely on films like “Alien” and “The Swamp Thing” as great means of inspiration, but he recalls his initial initiative for art coming about in response to seeing “Gremlins” for the very first time.

    “I remember my dad taking me to see [Gremlins] when I was I think four or five, and it scared the crap out of me. But it always left a mark on me,” he remembers.

    When it comes to the underlying theme of the Dark Market, Case feels that his craft will fit right in. He explains that with the curiosity element that the Dark Market is cultivating, creatures and things manifested from dreams, or rather nightmares, have plenty of room to fit in.“I guess that the Dark Market is supposed to about oddities, kind of weird stuff, creepy creatures, and I love all of that stuff,” he says.

     

    With the talents of artists like Kyle Howell, S. Fisher Williams and Ryan Case, the Dark Market seems to have its gaze set on success and will hopefully become a reoccurring event in the years following. In a world where rainbows and sunshine reign supreme, it’s nice to see the murky side of human expression, and the Dark Market is a great venue to come and witness this.

    “All of the artists,” says Cathe Krabb, “I really like their work, which is why they are involved as much as they are. But what I’m most curious about is all of the things that will be featured at the Dark Market because in the world of art, oddities and curiosities never get enough attention.”

    The Dark Market will be held on Sunday, June 12 at the Haymarket Whiskey Bar, and the event is 21 and over. Be sure to rearrange your plans for Sunday evening if necessary and come witness a side of art that never enough light is shed upon, at the Dark Market.

    Cover Image: Kyle Howell. Other images hyperlinked.

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    About Jordan Williams

    I like craft beer, nice guitars, and friendly cats.

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