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The cartoonish subjects of Mike Lowery’s exhibition “The Werewolf Youth” aren’t your typical ravenous, howling-at-the-full-moon shape-shifters. In fact, they’re not werewolves at all: They’re actually just a pair of pre-teens with whiskers drawn on their cheeks and ears attached to their hoodies. But in the hands of the DeerMilk Collective, a group composed of Lowery’s friends and acquaintances scattered across the globe, the pouty prepubescents take on a whole new life.
The artists’ group has its roots in the town of Jefferson City, Tenn., where Lowery started working with friends at Carson-Newman College in 1998. “It originally started as a group to critique each other’s work and keep work going,” the 26-year-old Alexandria resident says. “[N]ow it’s a lot more collaborative.”
“The Werewolf Youth” features work by newer members alongside that of original collective members Lowery and Atlanta artists Jym Davis and Wes Montgomery. It’s the group’s first exhibition under the name DeerMilk. (“A while back I did an [e-mail] interview with a Chinese magazine, and they started off the interview ‘Dear Milk’ instead of ‘Mike,’ ” Lowery says.)
The collaborative nature of the show springs from Lowery’s penchant for testing different techniques. “The styles I was working in were pretty diverse,” he says. “I was doing computer-generated work, but on the other end I was doing very sloppy, painterly renderings of these characters. I started thinking about these other ways that I could portray these kids. And I thought there were artists who were working in these mediums I really liked.” The 11 artists contributing to “The Werewolf Youth” have reinterpreted Lowery’s creations in a variety of manners: Illustrator Shibuya, working from Tokyo, breaks them down into boxy, black-and-white robots; Jym Davis’ video installation of a Werewolf Youth mask–wearing woman gives the Youth a sense of dark humor.
Lowery’s sullen characters take a turn for the cuter courtesy of Waynesboro, Pa., resident Heidi Kenney, who makes anthropomorphic plush under the name My Paper Crane. Lowery predicts her felt interpretations will be “the hit of the show.”
“The ideas and medium fit together really well in a unique, interesting way,” he says. “The wolf kid—she really put her own twist on it.” Kenney’s version of Lowery’s kid-in-wolf-clothing is a soft, cuddly, and felt-fang-bearing werewolf doll. A human semblance isn’t the only aspect of Lowery’s character that Kenney has done away with—her doll also appears sans hoodie, exposing a set of oversize pink nipples.
The Youth remain fully clothed in photographs by Fairfax residents Lisa McCarty, 24, and Mike Matason, 25, who snapped shots of themselves in costumes similar to the ones worn by Lowery’s characters. “The first thing that popped into my head was, What would they be like in real life?” says McCarty. Her only complaint was that “[i]t took forever to find pink socks.”
Despite Lowery’s role in organizing the lupine exhibition, “It’s not me-heavy,” he says. Lowery estimates that he will show 10 of his own works, which include vector drawings and drawings on stretched canvas. Some depict abstracted Werewolf Youth lined up like nesting dolls; another drawing shows a head that looks more realistically like a wolf’s.
“It’s a little grimmer,” Lowery says. “It’s dripping with blood and there are flies around it and stuff.”
“The Werewolf Youth” is on view from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays, and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays, to Friday, April 20, at the Warehouse Gallery, 1021 7th St. NW. Free. (202) 783-3933.