JR Linton's painting "What Do You Mean, Another Castle?" depicts an enraged Super Mario, eyes bloodshot, plumber's wrench in hand, cracking that infamous mushroom character Toad across the mouth. Mario's right hook is captured midswing by Linton, whose unflattering portrait of a cherished video-game icon falls under a subgenre of geek art he dubs "nerd revenge fantasy."
"Toad had it coming for a while," says Linton, chuckling. "He's the guy that always says, after Mario beats a boss to rescue the princess, 'The princess is in another castle.' It's a backlash. It undercuts all the '80s cookie-cutter stories we're told as children, that the good guys always win and knowing is half the battle and other public-service-message crap."
Linton's painting is attached to "Nerdcore Fandom," an exhibition opening Jan. 4 at Ink and Pistons, Linton's not-quite 6-month-old tattoo parlor and lowbrow art gallery in West Palm Beach. The gallery's group show originally fielded open-call submissions for anime, film, comic-book art and '80s TV cartoons (think Skeletor, "Thundercats" and "Transformers").
Then, Linton noticed that some of the entries, quite by accident, also depicted examples of so-called "revenge fantasy." One image shows Elmer Fudd eating Bugs Bunny, while another has Darth Vader plunging a lightsaber through Yoda's head. He says such pieces toe the line between serious appreciation for geek art and tongue-planted-firmly-in-cheek nostalgia, which is not unlike how Linton celebrates nerd culture. He even married his wife, Ink and Pistons co-owner Amanda Linton, at a "Star Wars" wedding: He was a grown-up Anakin Skywalker, she was Queen Amidala and the ordained minister was Emperor Palpatine in full, hooded regalia.
Linton's five pieces are accompanied by works from two dozen other artists, including Cake Marques' "More Fun With Our Friends," a mashup of the classic "Fun With Dick and Jane" Golden Books and the creature from "Alien." Blake Wheeler's "Doc" is a portrait of Doc Brown from "Back to the Future," while Darin Shock's "The Big Lebowski"-inspired poster print depicts a character from the film licking a bowling ball for good luck.
"Nerdcore" also has its share of less-violent and more-frivolous tributes to nerd media. Cross Stitch of Whimsy's "Get a Life" is a hand-stitched craft of the Super Mario Bros. 1-Up mushroom; cut-paper artist MarcPaperScissor's "Bobba Fret" depicts the "Star Wars" bounty hunter rocking out with a guitar; and Hillary White's "The Night Invader" replaces the demon as depicted in Henry Fuseli's 1781 oil "The Nightmare" with an Ewok.
Dave Berns' "Hail to the King, Baby!" depicts Bruce Campbell's "Evil Dead" character, Ash, as a sawed-off-shotgun-wielding Elvis, who utters the titular line of dialogue from the cult-horror franchise.
"It comes at the very end of [the film] 'Army of Darkness,' and Ash says the line in his best Elvis voice," the 38-year-old Lake Worth artist says. "I modeled it after the original movie poster. Geeks definitely weren't as cool when I was growing up. Nerds have taken over."
Nerdcore Fandom Art Show
When: Jan. 4-Feb. 5 (opening reception is 7-11 p.m. Jan. 4)
Where: Ink and Pistons Tattoo Shop, 2716 S. Dixie Highway, No. 101, West Palm Beach
Contact: 561-832-4655 or InkandPistons.com