In what the artist himself calls “homespun faerie tales”, Jon Rappleye blends imagery found in art history, literature, biology, and folklore to portray the cyclical nature of life and death. Ranging from surreal paintings to mixed media sculptures, his works draw from the detailed illustrations of James John Audubon and hallucinatory worlds of Salvador Dalí. And while his subject matter can be grim at times, the artist renders it in such a way that it becomes beautiful and enchanting.
Rappleye has long been fascinated with the natural world, re-imagined as magic dreamscapes in his acrylic paintings. In works like “A Litany in Time of Plague” and “Where In This Land of Lively Beast Scatters the Darkness Thin”, the artist incorporates animals of cultural and religious significance – such as the snake and white deer – alongside cross-species hybrids. Referencing the 16th and 17th century Dutch vanitas, the artist inserts dead animals and human skulls into the scenery to remind us of the brevity of life.
More recent paintings, such as “Fractured Vision” and “Before the Dawn”, feature human figures against psychedelic backgrounds, further indulging our imaginations. Rendered with the attentive detail of an anatomical diagram, the decomposing figures appear to be consumed by birds, snakes, branches and flowers. Tensions between life and death are more explicit in these newer works that combine the real with the fantastic.
Rappleye’s equally surreal sculptures, which he has been creating since 2007, also explore themes of growth and decay and reference the natural world:
Jon Rappleye was born in Provo, Utah in 1967. He attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and received his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He currently lives and works in Jersey City, New Jersey.