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Early Suburbs, The art of one who grew up watching cartoons
by D.C., Woodstock Times, February 13, 1986

Early Suburbs. It might not be up there with constructionism and cubism, but it'll probably go down in the books.

Tim Slowinski, a tall, young, Germanically handsome artist, is sitting in his Bearsville studio, surrounded by his cartooney nightmarish acrylics, talking about the new school.

"There was this guy from the Metropolitan Museum, and he said he always wondered, years back, what the art of these kids who grew up in the suburbs watching Saturday morning cartoons would be like. When he saw all the stuff coming out of the East Village these days he said. That's it.'"

Slowinski, who has shown locally at the Night Gallery, Gallery Rondout, the Kleinert and Woodstock Artists' Association, grew up watching cartoons in the suburbs of New Jersey with 13 brothers and sisters. Now he's joined the ranks of the East Village others. He had a solo show at the Cat Club in December and will have a show, opening April 23, at S.R. Rage, another East Village gallery.

This new cartoon-inspired art is not unified in style or form, Slowinski says. "What holds it together is the psychological thing behind it. A lot of what comes out of you visually comes from what you've observed. Everybody filters experience individually, so that makes all the work different. The basic core of what makes it similar is the psychological and social background of growing up watching cartoons."

What does cartoon-suburbs psychology look like? Regurgitated two decades later onto Slowinski's canvas, it looks pretty bleak. Reminiscent of German cartoonists in the '30s, his fictional characters find themselves trapped in modern machines, staring out of small round eyes trapped in big fat faces. They're what Orwell would do with paint.

A few years back Slowinski worked from photographs, producing montages of faces crowded and floating together, all looking like his relatives.

"It was very stifling in a way," he says. "No matter how much you changed it or did something different with it, you were stuck with the photograph as a model."

He likes the impact of his work. "It says a lot more about things that are important to me... social issues... human suffering, most of all."

His social consciousness may have come from his parents; his mother was going to become a nun before she met his father. Both parents are religious.

"I had pretty nice parents who were bordering on psychotic, a little," he says, and laughs, "They never hit us. They were moral disciplinarians. They didn't make us do a lot of things; you would just know what was expected. They wanted us to be religious. You had to pretend to be even if you weren't."

His family was self-contained and somewhat isolated from the rest of the world.

"People from the outside weren't accepted into it too much," he says. "You really didn't go out and make friends outside of it so much. You played with your brothers and sisters."

And within that isolation, Slowinski kept to himself. "Rather than playing with toys and things, I sort of entertained myself by inventing different situations and different characters." He was a spy, observing things from an imagined Africa or Siberia.

He always did a lot of painting. "One way the parents sort of kept the kids out of their hair was they gave you paper and a pencil and let you draw," he said.

His house was always warm and he always had enough to eat. That all changed when he moved to Woodstock in 1980, "just to get out of the suburbs."

Woodstock has become the best place he says he can imagine for an artist. He likes the mountains, but the main reason "once you get to know people and are shrewd and can find the right situations" -is it's cheap.

He does carpentry and caretaking work and lives in a WAA-owned building he and a few other artists have been renovating for several years. The one thing Woodstock isn't good for is selling, he says. "The only way to sell a painting in Woodstock is to take a painting worth $1.000 and sell it for $200." He says he sold three like that at a WAA show because he was desperate for money. "But they were old paintings and I didn't want them anyway," he adds, laughing.

Now Slowinski goes to the East Village to sell. His parents came to an East Village show. They looked at the "Burger Booth"-sinister huge Ronald MacDonald take offs looming over cash registers towards the masses and the grey-tinged businessman whose imprisoned face bulges out of a blocky TV set while his exposed brains emerge above and the sick chicken in the "Egg Factory," and the pig parts in "Industrious Pigs." They looked at these works by their eighth child and they laughed.

"They like it," Slowinski says. "They think it's great. They're very different from me as far as religious beliefs go. Psychologically and genetically we have similar tastes. If I did a big painting of a grotesque priest, they probably would be upset."

The priest has yet to be painted. Could it be too avant-garde even for Early Suburbs?