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Artist's cult-themed paintings featured at Chelsea gallery

"Light Vehicle (Satan)" (2013) by Shanna Waddell
"Light Vehicle (Satan)" (2013) by Shanna Waddell
The Thomas Erben Gallery

The Thomas Erben Gallery in Chelsea is presenting a series of works by Shanna Waddell for an exhibition titled (It’s like) roadside stuffed animals. For her second solo show at the gallery, Waddell unveils several new paintings revolving around her interest in various cults, and using different animals as symbols.

One subject matter the artist takes on is that of the late actor River Phoenix, and his connection to The Children of God. Similarly, she delves into the dark, troubled life of late Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain. Although Cobain himself never belonged to a cult, he has been the subject of a cult-like following both in life and death.

The principal theme in Waddell’s work is the deterioration of beauty. For instance, if a rock star finds no peace of mind in the midst of fame and success, he will most likely choose an easier, destructive path of abusing drugs and possibly suicide. Waddell uses the figure of Satan to symbolize this angelic turned demonlike path, portraying Satan to have once been a beautiful angel gone bad.

Waddell paints her Satan as a vague conglomeration of expressions and body parts: a manifold presence hovering in empty space trying to figure out which shoes, or legs, to wear – as in Untitled (Satan) – or a silvery idol traveling in a light vehicle of his own, resplendent but headless, In Light Vehicle (Satan), Waddell portrays the subject as a headless creature with a human body and wings. He serves as a reminder of major flaws that exist beneath superficial beauty, and the mystery behind all existence.

At The Thomas Erben Gallery, 526 W. 26th St., through Feb. 8. The gallery is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. There will be an opening reception at the gallery Jan. 9th, from 6 p.m. until 8:30 p.m.