Saturday, July 28, 2012

Landscapes and Tigers and Zombies, Oh My!

It was a beautiful day for an outdoor art show. The heat and humidity had broken, and the sun was shining brightly over the water. We strolled along, wandering in and out of the various booths, looking at paintings, photographs and various other objects d'art. There was an artist who created abstract sculptures in wood, another who made mobiles out of shiny metals. But by and large, the vast majority of subjects fell into a few large categories, including landscapes, animals and beach scenes. 

And zombies. 

Yes, zombies. The undead, the possessed, the bewitched, call them what you will. You probably think of them as flesh eating, humanoid monsters wearing rags and dripping blood. And that's certainly one interpretation. But at booth 64 sat Greg Stones. And while the directory listed his medium as "watercolor," which was certainly true, it didn't list the zombie part. 

Let's be fair: zombies are hot. Also werewolves and vampires. HBO's "True Blood" is entering its fifth season, and has just been renewed for a sixth. There's the mash-up books by Seth Grahame-Smith, including "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" and "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies," the former on the big screen this year, the later slated for next. Speaking of movies, Tim Burton's remake of "Dark Shadows" is just the latest big budget entry in a long line of films. And it's hard to even count the number of video games that mine the genre, from "Resident Evil" to "City of the Dead" to "Atom Zombie Smasher." 

There's even an ap for that. "Zombies,Run!" is an exercise program to pace you on your morning run. In it, you play the part of a messenger in a post-apocalyptic world . As you jog, between songs on your music playlist, you hear radio transmissions directing you to speed up or slow down to avoid a zombie attack. Do so successfully, and you capture needed supplies to play the game when you return. And if that's not enough motivation to get moving, every now and again you hear rattles and groans from the approaching hoards. 

But back to Stones. Until now, at least as far as I know, the fine art world hasn't really keyed in on flesh eaters. And neither did Stones when he started. True, about a dozen years ago he accidently splattered black paint on a watercolor. "After freaking out for a few minutes, it occurred to me that I could turn those specks of paint in the sky into flying saucers," he writes. "That opened up my brain in a really good way. Soon flying people and nude blue aliens entered the mix. I was having more fun creating my art, and people were having more fun looking at it." 

Then in 2004 he saw the George Romero classic "Night of the Living Dead," and as he put it, "had no choice but to start adding zombies to my paintings." Stones' zombies, however, are well dressed, even if they have the usual zombie tendencies. And while you can certainly buy individual prints of his work, he makes it easy to be fully versed in the ins-and-outs of the particular proclivities of the undead in his collection called "Zombies Hate Stuff." 

This little 64 page book chronicles in delightful images (if zombies can be said to be delightful) all the things zombies really hate: kittens, hippies, sharing, war re-enactors and llamas, to name just a few. Thankfully, if you ever do run across a zombie and need to make idle chatter, the book includes a few things they don't mind, like skiing, babysitting and Canadians. Asked (by himself to himself on his Amazon web page) if the book could actually help us survive a zombie apocalypse, Stones responded, "Yes, obviously. If you know that zombies hate clowns, you will not become a clown, with the added bonus that there will be one less clown in the world. Based on this fact alone, ‘Zombies Hate Stuff' benefits the entire planet." 

Picasso and Monet both had blue periods, then evolved their style to include other tones. Perhaps Stones will move on to other colors or creatures. He went through a penguin phase, and ones that included Bigfoot, aliens and robots. None, however, appear as productive as his zombie period. Speaking as one observer, the art world needed that. And if he continues to grow as an artist, one can only hope that what he did for zombies he does for cupcakes. Or whatever.


Marc Wollin of Bedford gets bored looking at the same stuff. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at

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