Can’t look away

John Wotipka at Gallery 14

“Unleashed” by John Wotipka, oil on canvas, 2012.

“Unleashed” by John Wotipka, oil on canvas, 2012.

Where: Gallery 14, 3960 60th Street; (916) 456-1058;
Second Saturday reception: June 8, 6 to 11 p.m.
Hours: Monday through Friday, noon to 5 p.m.; and by appointment.

Zoom in on the third panel from Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights” triptych, where he’s depicted people enduring hell after being sinful in the second panel. Dip the chaotic and dark scene in a steely blue aura, add a scorpion or vicious fish or two, and you get an idea of what South Sacramento artist John Wotipka’s paintings are like.

In Wotipka’s work, seemingly feckless souls—undressed (mostly) male figures—exist in a gray, barren land, nightmarishly being affected by strange beasts. Or sometimes are themselves partly strange beasts. His paintings are surreal and full of torment, but in the same fascinating way that Bosch’s are, so that the viewer doesn’t want to look away.

Wotipka developed his skill without the aid of a formal art education. In fact, he dropped out of high school. “Whether [or] not being accredited with an art degree has been a disadvantage to attaining monetary success it is hard to say, since it is a difficult field to find success in and doubly hard for one with a surrealist inclination,” he said. He’s not worried about it, though: “At this stage of my life I am not [too] concerned with financial reward.”