Usually, the spray paint and stencil murals created by the Hamilton artist named Lank are light-hearted — featuring colorful graphic designs and sometimes portraits of pop-culture icons.
But not this one.
Visit the Artworks building in Trenton this Saturday, and you’ll see one of his most recent works: an 8-foot painting showing two young blonde children running away from a menacing green witch.
“It’s pretty dark,” says Lank, whose real name is Jonathan Conner.
That’s the idea. Lank’s take on Hansel & Gretel is one of the featured pieces that will be on display Saturday at the eighth annual Monster’s Ball, a pre-Halloween party hosted by Artworks.
Every year, the organization — which aims to keep art alive in New Jersey’s capital through events and exhibitions — turns its headquarters off Route 1 into a house of macabre. For art fans, at least.
“There’s no haunt. No one’s jumping out at you,” explains Lynn Lemyre, Artworks’ executive director. “But the artwork tends to be on the dark side. It’s not fluffy cute.”
Last year’s theme was Edgar Allen Poe. This year, it’s dark fairy tales. The centerpiece of the event is an exhibit called “Art of Darkness,” featuring more than 60 pieces with twisted takes on children’s stories.
Lank’s Hansel & Gretel piece was actually painted in July at Artworks’ signature event Art All Night, in which patrons can visit the Roebling Wire Works building in Trenton for 24 hours for non-stop music, art, and film. One of the event’s segments is called “Dueling Muralists,” where a handful of artists create pieces live and in person based on a theme.
This year, Lank joined fellow New Jersey artists Kasso and Jim Lemyre — Lynn’s husband — to craft pieces based on the “dark fairy tales” theme. All of the results will be on display Saturday.
Lank took inspiration from his family. He snapped a picture of his young children running and screaming as the basis for Hansel and Gretel and then used them to make stencils. The artist — who also teaches drawing and 2-D design at Mercer County Community College — spray-painted in the rest.
“They had fun,” Lank says of his children, ages and 11. “When they visited Art All Night, everyone there sort of recognized them.”
Jim Lemyre’s piece features another fixture of fairy tale lore: the big bad wolf. He painted the animal lurking around the forest, surrounded by bluish green skies.
“It appealed to me to have this kind of scary creature hidden amongst the trees in the darkness,” Leymre says of the pieces, which features acrylic paint on canvass dropcloth.
As for the evening’s soundtrack? There will be music from Trenton DJ ItsjustAhmad, as well as a set from Molly Rhythm, a nine-piece Trenton alt-rock act featuring two female singers, a full horn section, and outfits that are often colorful and sometimes scant. The group has become a fixture of Trenton and Philadelphia rock venues over the last three years.
“We’re kind of loud and in the way most of the time,” says one of the singers, who goes simply by the name Nikki. “We’ll cause a scene. Definitely cause a scene. “
In other words, they’re fit for a Halloween party.
“We’re just a spectacle,” says guitarist Andrew Vaught. “I feel like the music has a Tim Burton-esque feel to it.”
Expect them to be in costume Saturday — and possible to have a surprise or two. “The girls always have something hidden up their sleeves I don’t even know about it,” Vaught says.
Visitors to the event can also come in costume. There will be a contest for those dressed in outfits that follow the fairy-tale theme.
Rounding out the night will be hands-on art, portrait photographs, food, and drink. Plus, there will be showings of a pair of old silent horror films: 1925’s The Adventures of Prince Achmed and 1946’s La Belle et Le Bete (French for Beauty and the Beast — and featuring a beast much creepier than the one in the Disney film).
Tickets range from $10 to $75. Proceeds will help Artworks — which is celebrating its 50th anniversary and its 25th year in Trenton — plan and stage future events and exhibitions.
Visitors must be 18 or older. The building will not be open until 8 p.m., when the event begins. After that, doors close when “the wolves howl.”