Sacramento artist Skinner
Skinner’s incredible world of mutants, demons, boners … and a bunny rabbit
“Hey man I know it might be difficult but if there was any way that I could not come off as a total douche bag I would be very appreciative.”
That text message popped up on my phone on Saturday; its apprehensive sender was Warren Davis III, better known as local artist Skinner.
The preceding afternoon, Skinner had opened his Surreal Estates studio, in north Sacramento’s Dixieanne neighborhood, for a preview of his July Upper Playground show, titled No More the World of Man … . On the concrete walk outside, items from an installation featuring slaughtered mutant dummies were strewn about, and 3-D glasses were offered by the artist to help make the images pop. “Whenever you look at it, the blood comes out, but the eyes follow you everywhere,” Skinner enthused, his pet bunny Milo hopping around the figures.
Inside his garagelike studio, the floor was covered with framed photos Skinner picked up at thrift stores and modified with painted images—families with cartoon-demon dads, kitschy religious imagery. “It was, like, Jesus holding a child, but I changed it,” he explained, pointing at a monster holding a baby.
Interspersed were paintings with text, some with phallic allusions like “2008 American boner invasion—nightmare life mall worship bullshit world forever” and “Both black and white are smoking pole tonight.”
“The whole show is gonna be fucked up,” Skinner said. “It’s gonna be crazy—one of those shows where nobody leaves.”
The 30-year-old artist recently launched a skateboard company, Blood Wizard; he also designs for other outfits that include Creature Skateboards, Toms Shoes, Tank Theory and Upper Playground. By day, he teaches art to the developmentally disabled; when he isn’t painting in his off hours, he fronts Iguanadon, a heavy-metal power trio that includes his partner, drummer Kristie Harris.
Skinner knows how to shock, but his imagery springs from a continuum that includes California surf- and car-culture artists like Ed “Big Daddy” Roth and Robert Williams, horror-comic specialists like Charles Burns and currently popular tattoo designs, shot through with ideas gleaned from the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, horror films, Dungeons & Dragons and countless heavy-metal album covers. There’s a raw originality at work that might pigeonhole Skinner as an outsider, but he’s got enough technical mojo working in his lurid apocalyptic imagery to merit him more serious consideration.
As for inspiration? “I just sit here and smoke an insane amount of weed, and I listen to metal and Ween and Skeletonwitch and crank the Queen,” Skinner explained.