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The crab-walking dead

Amanda Linton, the tattooed curator behind the lowbrow art haven Ink and Pistons Gallery, has a new exhibition rooted in what she calls "the whimsy of the ocean."

And by whimsical, she means swaggering, cutlass-swinging female pirates, glass bottles hand-painted with images of sunken treasure and oversize octopi, sirenlike mermaids, zombified sea creatures and acoustic guitars transformed into clawed crustaceans.

"Fantasy is part of the allure," says Linton, whose nautical display of artworks, dubbed "Out to Sea," opened this week at the West Palm Beach gallery. (It closes June 25.) "The sea is kind of like outer space — there is so much unknown about it, and I think the idea of weird, undiscovered creatures is appealing to people. At least, it's appealing to me."

Fictional sea dwellers are in abundance among the 94 works on display, and they surface in the ink-and-pen watercolors of Lake Worth's Pam Kwarchak. Her "Undine" watercolor, titled after a mythological water nymph, depicts a mermaid whose elongated tail terminates in a flourish of scales resembling an aquatic plant. Her ink-and-watercolor "Sadness #378," meanwhile, captures a weeping mermaid with spaghettilike hair, and is named after a character quirk in Jonathan Safran Foer's novel "Everything Is Illuminated." She says painting ocean creatures stems from a diet of Edith Hamilton's "Mythology," Foer's magical realism and some post-graduate travels to South America and Kazakhstan.

"I like to resurrect old fairy tales and study mythologies — Celtic mysteries, Slavic deities," the 31-year-old says. "I like the idea of mermaids being untrustworthy, or mysterious and dangerous like a siren. Every time I draw a mermaid's face, people ask if they're self-portraits, and I think they are. I'm sort of drawn to the therapy and escapism of drawing otherworldly things."

Other works from the three dozen artists include "Water Level Boy," artist Blake Wheeler's painting of an understandably worried scuba diver whose cracked helmet is surrounded by skeletal baby octopi. Meanwhile, Melissa Goldman's painting of a fire-orange octopus with whirlpool eyes, titled "Orange Octo," carries the endearing message, "Give Me Your Hand and I Will Drag You to Hell." West Palm Beach artist K.L. George has a series of corked flasks and growlers on display, each knotted with twine and enameled with bright scenes of seaweed-encrusted ship anchors and treasure chests.

But the grotesque art of Lawrence Boos, who operates under the nom-de-zombie Undead Ed, may be the most whimsical. His clay-fired sculptures of a dolphin and whale, respectively, are functional piggy banks transformed into blood-splattered, diseased and ravenous vertebrates. The 37-year-old Boca Raton artist, who builds glass pipes for South Florida head shops, says the commercial-art market is keener on undead creations following the recent success of TV series such as "The Walking Dead."

"I love H.P. Lovecraft, and I love shock-and-awe stuff," says Boos, who also has in the show a piece titled "Leviathan," an acoustic guitar painted neon-green with tentacles, gills and claws. "I like taking something cute and Disneylike and turning it into something scary and macabre."

Out to Sea: A Group Art Show

When: Through June 25

Where: Ink and Pistons Tattoo Shop and Slushbox Art Gallery, 2716 S. Dixie Highway, No. 101, West Palm Beach

Cost: Free

Contact: 561-832-4655 or

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