Photo by Kelton Sears

C.M. Ruiz’s Last Art Show in the Lusty Lady? An Ode to Kirby

“C.M. Dreamland” pays homage to the surreal Nintendo character through painting and installation.

Walking through it’s musty interior today, some 40 years after opening and seven years since it officially closed, the Lusty Lady’s brick wall is plastered with the image of a giant Nintendo villain. Kracko, a malicious, one-eyed, laser-shooting cloud that has appeared as a boss in almost every Kirby game to date, leers at artist C.M. Ruiz and I from above.

“I still need to make a bunch of the other clouds, I’ll have them hanging from the ceiling,” Ruiz says, gesturing around as he steps over all the canvases, tarps and plastic bags full of Kirby merchandise on the dusty floor. “I’m going to make some more stars, I found these inflatable ones on eBay. The pillars in here are going to look like Star Rods.”

Last year, Ruiz, best known around town for his omnipresent Xerox poster art for local bands, convinced the current leaseholders of the Lusty Lady building to let him take it over temporarily as an arts studio, event space, and gallery, which he has dubbed Brainfreeze. This Thursday, Ruiz will host his last art show in the space before packing up and moving to Wallingford—a Kirby-themed exhibition named “C.M. Dreamland.”

Why Kirby? It’s a throwback to one of Ruiz’s earliest influences—the art of Nintendo games circa 2001-2003, the heyday of the Gameboy Advance and Gamecube. “I used to go to this Kirby fan site in 2001 all the time,” Ruiz says. “I went back through it recently and remembered every page and all the AIM icons and fant art.” Ruiz’s own body of work—full of spacey, drippy, rubbery figures, filtered through a hallucinogenic cartoon lens, already in many ways recalls the uniquely surreal world of Nintendo’s Kirby franchise. “Kirby is psychedelic, it’s really pop-art—a lot of those pinks and yellows and candy colors,” Ruiz says. “Kirby’s flying through space on stars and there’s trees with faces—everything about it is really trippy, but also funneled through this cuteness filter. I think my work is super similar, it’s just that Kirby is a more sugarcoated version.”

What makes Ruiz’s show interesting, however, is that none of the art on display will feature Kirby or licensed Nintendo characters—a break from many of the hoary “nerd art” shows around town. Although Brainfreeze will be decked out with installations that explicitly reference Kirby, framing the space as if it were a level from the game, the art, some of which takes up entire walls, will merely nod to it—borrowing from its candy color palettes and whimsical environments. To ensure the Kirby vibe was thoroughly infused in each piece, Ruiz listened to a playlist of Kirby soundtrack songs while painting all the work for the show, a playlist that will also soundtrack the exhibition.

“Doing this show,” Ruiz says, “I just want to buy so much Gamecube stuff now.” CM Dreamland. Brainfreeze, 1315 1st Ave., 481-6844. Free. All ages. 6 – 11 p.m.

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