Lynch-Themed Exhibit Opens at Kensington’s Pterodactyl


PJ Smalley’s portrait of Dale Cooper | Photo via Christian Sarkis Graham

PJ Smalley’s portrait of Dale Cooper. | Photo via Christian Sarkis Graham

Is there really any time as fitting as Halloween weekend to open a show in praise and commemoration of David Lynch? (Okay besides Father’s Day. Or Thanksgiving.)

“I was thinking, ‘How would Dale Cooper go about curating a show?’ He would be very earnest, with almost a Boy Scout sincerity; but he would still engage elements of the surreal and the strange. He would go about it as a tribute to his creator; in a lot of ways, Dale Cooper is the ultimate Lynch self-portrait.”

So explains PJ Smalley, the artist behind the arguable centerpiece of Pterodactyl gallery’s David Lynch-themed exhibit, “Catching the Big Fish,” which held its opening reception Saturday night.

Walking into the gallery, the first item that greets you is Smalley’s portrait of Twin Peaks hero Dale Cooper. While compiling and arranging the exhibit, Smalley remarked that he began to approach this painting as he would a self-portrait, trying to render the image as Cooper would portray himself: a straight faced, realistically rendered form, uncannily placed over an oversized cherry pie. “It’s a real point of epiphany,” Smalley says, “to be able to empathize with a separate, fictional person you are trying to portray.”

It was this realization that inspired his decision to have the show curated by the very personality he attempted to both invoke and depict.

As publicized, the “Catching the Big Fish” curating credit belongs to Special Agent Dale Cooper, who appeared throughout Saturday’s gallery opening in numerous trench coat-clad manifestations (Smalley, in fact, hired actors to portray the hard-boiled, infamously mystic inspector.)

Special Agent Dale Cooper gazes at his portrait. |Photo via Christian Sarkis Graham

Special Agent Dale Cooper(s) gaze at Smalley’s portrait. | Photo via Christian Sarkis Graham

The Agent Coopers paced around the gallery, conversing with patrons, inspecting each of the hanging works and recording observations for Diane (usually by way of an iPhone app rather than a tape recorder. After all, it’s important to stay current.) Effectively, the entire space amounted to a surreal Lynchian investigation scene.

“Catching the Big Fish” offers paintings, sculpture and multimedia pieces in creative dialogue with both PAFA’s retrospective “David Lynch: The Unified Field,” as well as the recurring themes throughout Lynch’s work, namely absurdist mystery, violence, and humor as black as Agent Cooper’s morning cup. The exhibit features work from local talent Nick Stathopoulos, Jenn Warpole, David Campbell and many more.

Philly artist and DJ Anthony Campuzano posted up behind a refreshments table that offered a regenerating stock of damn fine cups of coffee and the best cherry pie in the tri-counties. Keeping it topical, Campuzano spun a Lynch-themed set spanning from Badalamenti to “Blue Velvet,” all while featuring some other seasonal cinephile remixes for good measure (“Red Red Rum,” anyone?)

Special Agent Dale Cooper records notes to send to Diane. | Photo via Christian Sarkis Graham

Special Agent Dale Cooper records notes to send to Diane. | Photo via Christian Sarkis Graham

By night’s end, the space was teeming with tributes to Lynch’s creative universe, so much so that it seemed to organically summon its own allusions. It became a little too easy for some (okay, maybe just me) to interpret a quiet blonde gallery attendee in a red dress as something of an archetype from a Mulholland-tinted dream sequence. Granted that might have been after one too many slices of pie …

“Catching the Big Fish” continues at Pterodactyl throughout November. A closing reception will take place on Friday, November 21st, 5pm to 8pm.

Want more Lynch-inspired goodness this week? Check out Thursday’s “It’s a Strange World: Music of David Lynch” concert performance, featuring, among others, Northern Arms, Teena Geist, Martha Graham Cracker and James Sugg. More information here.


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