“The Legend of Rainbow Mountain” may sound like a children’s book, but it’s really an exhibition of colorfully demented characters from the mind of a Charleston, S.C., artist calling himself Patch Whisky.
Whisky fills the small gallery at the back of Patton Avenue’s Push Skateshop and Gallery with a hallucinogenic narrative starring a department store child-mannequin. The artist embellishes this child with no less than 10 colors and a swirl of patterns that seem to imitate a full body tattoo. He’s posed dancing, one arm stretching upwards, in the middle of of this exuberant show. Surrounding him is an explosion of color that covers canvases, wood panels, guitars, spray paint cans, skateboards, a parking meter, a surfboard and several dismembered mannequins.
On each of these the artist has inscribed bulging, warty blobs and twisted snake-like creatures with bright eyes and big smiles oozing saliva and slime. Whisky calls them Winkles, and despite their overall cheerfulness, they’re sour looking, even toxic. These are the creatures that Scrubbing Bubbles kill.
Alongside the dancing child are two headless, legless and armless torsos — one male, one female. They are adorned with the same gaping black eyes and crooked smiles as the Winkles, only their positioning is more playful. Breasts become irises, nipples become pupils.
Patch Whisky, whose real name is Rich Miller, is a graphic and clothing designer, as well as a painter and skateboarder. His works share in the weird creature culture that other skateboard artists, such as Jimbo Phillips and Michael Sieben, incorporate into their board designs. Whiskey’s color choices and drawing style clearly reflect his own love of cartoons and also his graphic design training at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.
The bulk of Whisky’s work is painted in candy-colored shades like electric pinks, lime greens and aquas, among others in his vivacious palette. He also has black and white characters that hover over dizzying tangles of tinted lines and washed-out backgrounds. All of these creatures are boldly outlined with thick black or chromatic lines, or both. The craftsmanship in his drawing and painting — flawless, flowing line work and smooth-as-glass color patches — take Whiskey’s work beyond fine graphics into the realms of fine art.
Between the paintings’ cartoon figures, the mannequins, and especially the show’s storybook title, it’s easy to see that there’s a narrative running through the work. The Winkles have their own personalities, but the big story is not in the paintings, where you might expect them. “The Legend of Rainbow Mountain” is about the mannequin family. Like all good children’s stories, the child is the hero. My bet is that the young one is Patch Whisky’s stand-in, the artist’s avatar, responsible for all the creatures and creations around him. The two dismembered adult torsos can’t tell him to stop, or communi-cate at all, so the kid can carry on his work rendering the world surrounding him.
“The Legend of Rainbow Mountain” is on view at Push until Sept. 2. Located at 25 Patton Avenue, left of the Kress Building. Monday through Thursday 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m.- to 7 p.m., Sunday noon to 6 p.m. 225-5509.
Kyle Sherard is a printmaker, writer, and graduate from UNC Asheville.