Ómar Thór Arason
Iceland native Ómar Thór Arason’s painted his ass off. Survey says …
There’s a small painting in Ómar Thór Arason’s Tahoe Park studio of former Family Feud host Richard Dawson trapped in a quasi-futuristic 2001: A Space Odyssey-type scene. At first, the piece earns a chuckle. But you keep coming back to it—Dawson’s gray coif and game-show persona curiously out of place in a neo-Kubrickian world.
Other small paintings possess a similar attraction: men and women straight out of 1972, provocative religious iconoclasm, environments with little semblance to a tangible world. He’s got a proclivity for the kind of people you’d see in old-school Penthouse and Playboy ads, yet his work is immediate. Perhaps it’s the humor that’s disarming, the imagery at once friendly and unsettling. Or maybe he reels you in with nostalgia—the guy straight out of Boogie Nights with the retro chonies—but unexpectedly ties things into the quotidian 21st-century lifestyle.
As Arason digs through his studio and unearths more boxes of his work, you also realize he’s incredibly productive. And consistently talented.
Consider a painting of women in bikinis on a beach, horizontal technicolor bars for sand, faces obscured, bodies hollow—this catches your eye. It’s both sexy and disturbing, the retro diametrically opposed to modern, allure to decay.
Arason smiles. He’s cynical, and maybe even reticent to discuss his work. But he’s got a good sense of humor and opens up to discussion after calculated pauses for thought. A Sacramentan by way of Scandinavia and Iceland, Arason wanted to attend art school in Denmark, but didn’t get in. His brother lived in Sac, so he moved here.
Arason could always draw, but didn’t start painting till six years ago at American River College. It came naturally. Now he has a master’s in studio art from Sac State. This month’s show at A Bitchin’ Space will be his second major exhibition in town; the first was at Fools Foundation. He enjoys showing his work.
“As the person who makes the art, you always have a different view of it than someone who comes to it with fresh eyes would. The curse of being a maker,” he says.
Indeed, he is a maker; well, he is according to Gale Hart, at least. Hart, owner of A Bitchin’ Space, says of Arason: “Crank it out. Crank it out. Crank it out. When I’m too meticulous, it’s often my worst work.” Hart says Arason strikes a fine balance between attention to detail and overall output. It’s remarkable.
And he keeps unearthing more and more boxes—10 or so paintings in each, one work as impressive as the next. “I was going for speed, but never saw things as shapes,” he later says of his largest canvas, a recent work hanging on the main wall in his studio. Perhaps he’s speaking of his own technique: No longer a student, he’s got day job, but from the looks of it, that hasn’t slowed him down a bit.