Rebecca Fewless stands smiling beneath a seven-foot, glowering, glittery-eyed demon. She peeks over the rim of her black glasses, long red hair framing her dimples in wisps.
“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts,” she says.
The quote, from Marcus Aurelius, is written on a black piece of paper and pinned to a ribbon holding three of Fewless’ deeply personal graphite and charcoal drawings. On either side, the giant demon’s arms reach out to hold the ribbons. Completing the strange installation, an antique music box sits atop a white pedestal with the skull of a cat painted in red glitter, matching the eyes of the demon.
The imposing installation is hard to miss; “Scary Gary” is part of an annual juried student art show in which Linn-Benton students have the opportunity to show and sell their work, as well as win awards in numerous categories.
Fewless and “Scary Gary” have become well-known sights on campus. Her installation currently dominates a corner of North Santiam Hall’s second-floor gallery, while Fewless reigns as the manager of the Hot Shot Cafe, the cheapest place for a cup of joe on campus. Not just a slave to the grind of coffee beans and the caffeine demands of sleepy students, Fewless has been at LB for three years studying graphic design and creating art.
“It just kind of formed itself,” she said, smiling and glancing up at her creation. “I wanted to work on something I don’t normally do. It was the most fun I’ve had with art in a long time.”
Inspired by the work of a friend, Fewless decided to try something new. She ventured down a darker vein of expression, utilizing “creepy” figures and horror-inspired concepts in her drawings.
“I based them off of my anxiety and depression and how to work through it,” said Fewless. “That pain of something that’s not there but is totally real for the individual.”
The drawings grew out of Fewless’ distress, expressing pain with a visceral quality, yet they also express her positive, determined nature.
“It’s [anxiety] not going to go away; it’s life and it’s just not, and you have to learn to cope with it and focus on the good things in life,” said Fewless.
The cat skull and figures in her drawing represent that hope and “happy thought” for Fewless. She encourages viewers to interact with the installation and pick up the music box to listen to its effervescent melody. Even the name of the installation shows Fewless’ tendency to lean towards the lighter side of life, calling it “Scary Gary” after the character Scary Terry on the cartoon sitcom “Rick and Morty.”
Usually sticking to graphite, Fewless used mixed-media, found materials and paper to create her masterpiece. She had no money for materials and it was different from anything she’s ever done, but she had a vision.
“It’s something that I don’t normally do; I’m very much a graphite person,” said Fewless. “Sometimes you get an Idea and you just gotta go for it.”
The drawings began as an assignment for visual arts instructor Anne Magratten’s figure drawing class. Magratten describes the work as “creepy, frightening, dark, and challenging”—but she loves it.
“In Rebecca’s installation, we are greeted by a giant intimidating monster and a host of difficult drawings that address sexual violence, depression, and body image,” said Magratten. “Rebecca’s work is amazing because it visually acknowledges some of the most harrowing aspects of being a woman. Her work touches the fear, isolation, and pain that is silently present in too many lives.”
While “Scary Gary” may seem foreboding from afar, taking a closer look at the drawings beneath reveals meticulous detail and a story full of raw emotion.
“It hurts me to look at her drawings but only because I acknowledge the truth in them,” said Magratten. “‘Scary Gary’ allows me to think more deeply about these issues and brings them into a public space of contemplation. Her art is hugely powerful!”
“Scary Gary” is up for sale at an asking price of $175 and will remain on display until the end of the show on June 8. Winners of will be announced on Wednesday, May 3 at the gallery reception from noon until 1 p.m.
Story and Photo by Emily Goodykoontz