Pajama Factory welcomes Todd Rice
Transubstantiation, cats, anime, monsters and Day of the Dead … these are just a few of the wide array of subjects that Pajama Factory’s newest artist in residence features in his artwork.
After 20 years, Todd Rice, 50, has returned to his hometown of Williamsport. He returns from the palm trees and warm weather of San Diego, Calif., to the now chilly, industrial Pajama Factory, 1307 Park Ave.
His studio’s large windows allow for ample light.
An incomplete painting sits on an easel, with warm blends of orange and yellow; Rice is completing what he calls a “nostalgic piece” – he hasn’t seen autumn or winter in 20 years. The sudden cold weather has been a bit of an adjustment for him. But he showed excitement at the newfound, growing art scene in Williamsport that wasn’t so present when he lived here before.
“When I lived here before, there was no such animal of an art scene,” he said.
He figured being at the Pajama Factory was the best way to jump in.
Many of his artworks, which cover the studio walls, feature exuberant paintings with neon oranges, reds, blues. Many with strange serpents and monsters from old horror movies.
“That’s from growing up watching monster movies,” he said.
But monsters certainly aren’t the only subjects.
“Abstract, figurative … I like a lot of different things. I don’t really understand a lot of artists who just get that style (like) painting the exact same way – they all look the same to me,” he said.
Arguably some of Rice’s most intriguing works are products of careful collaborations with his late cats, Chloe and Daphne.
The kitty paintings are done simply by laying down a bit of cardboard and letting the cats go to work with their claws.
“I lay it down and they scratch it up. They give you nice abstract shapes,” he said. Some of the pieces show seemingly carefully done linear tears and one wonders how that would be possible from a cat. Rice explained the technique: “You just lay a piece of cardboard down and then you crease it, and it has that line and they’ll usually go for that first,” he said.
In addition to the series of work done in collaboration with his cats, he has a much darker series called “Transubstantiation for Fun and Profit.”
“It’s basically something changing its form,” he said, “If you’re a good Catholic girl, you probably practice transubstantiation on Sundays. The wafer becomes the body and the wine becomes the blood.”
He went on to explain how the idea of transubstantiation in Catholicism is expressed in his work: “Mine’s kind of the same thing. I wanted to do things that are changing with time with the elements. I like the oxidized look with the copper. I put a lot of religious elements into it,” he said. Religion is a point of perplexity for Rice.
The series is dark indeed, dark greens and black, one with a cross and rosary, another with a pierced hand, symbolizing stigmata.
Next to the stigmata piece is a piece with a litterscoop, which he completed after his cats passed away. Clearly a large part of his life, Chloe and Daphne still show up in various other works of his, outside of the artworks they helped create, like in the backgrounds of his Dia de los Muertos works.
As the light outside dimmed as afternoon turned into evening, naturally with the large windows, the studio quickly became much darker. But instead of turning on the bright overhead lights, Rice turned on two large fluorescent black lights that he keeps on the studio floor.
All of the fluorescent colors previously invisible in the natural light were enhanced by the black light, and the already-vibrant artworks became even more incandescent.
Eerie electronic music playing on a stereo added to the bizarre science fiction-like atmosphere in Rice’s studio.
“It’s fun to kind of disturb people a little bit and make them uncomfortable,” he said.
His work is on display in his Pajama Factory studio, located on the fourth floor.