Mummies and werewolves and ghouls, oh, my.
They're among the sinister creatures running amok in "My Favorite Monster," a new art exhibition open now at Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa.
In its purple and lime green gallery, bizarre eyeballs hang from the ceiling, and strange creatures lurk behind glass. But far from scary, the show offers a lighthearted look at frightful beasts, with plenty of hands-on elements for families. Attractions include a create-your-own puppet theater; a glow-in-the-dark room with a collection of delightfully nightmarish hats; and a studio where kids can don monster costumes and act out their own movie, displayed in real time on a big screen.
Here, we chat with artist Roy Wasson Valle, who has several other-worldly pieces in the show. The 33-year-old grew up in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and Prescott, and lived for a time in Germany. He now resides in Mesa, where he keeps near-constant company with a cast of creepy-cute beasts that show up in his art and on his Web site, FuzzyBallsApparel.com. Called "the animalitos," they include a skeleton in a fuzzy bear costume, a demon pig, a robot unicorn and a cycloptic rabbit with a toothy, 360-degree grin. Another of the beasts, a party-loving dino named Shezilla, appears in the exhibition.
Q: Who are the animalitos?
A: They're a body of characters who live together in this big square house called the Cava. It walks around, and it has these big eyes on it. Every time I do a show, at least one of them usually makes an appearance.
Q: Who's your favorite animalito?
A: Probably Raul, the skeleton bear. He was a priest or minister, and now that he's dead, he's no longer a priest or minister. He's not as serious as he was when he was alive.
Q: Are the animalitos monsters?
A: I don't think of them that way. I guess if they came into our world, they would be more like monsters. Maybe that's what monsters are. Maybe they don't think of themselves as monsters until someone points it out and runs away screaming.
Q: Were you into monsters as a kid?
A: I'm the youngest of four brothers. In a household full of boys, stories with monsters were very popular. And I grew up in the '80s, with Jim Henson and "The Dark Crystal" and "Dungeons and Dragons." Monsters are the things I've sort of always chosen to draw or write about.
Q: Why are people drawn to monsters?
A: I think we're fascinated because the darkness is still the darkness, even if we do feel fairly certain there's nothing there. I mean, can we ever be 100 percent sure? There are too many dark corners in the world to be completely sure that there aren't monsters somewhere.
Q: What's good about monsters?
A: They have feelings and laugh and cry and experience things the way we do. Monsters also need to be loved and need to have friends. Maybe the best quality is that they're not as different from us as we think they are.
Q: Can we learn anything from monsters?
A: I would maybe guess that they've been around a little bit longer, so maybe we can learn how to deal with our world a little bit better through them. Maybe they take care of their house a little better and don't burn their forests down. I'm guessing. I don't know for sure. It's hard to tell with monsters.
Q: What are your favorite monster movies or books?
A: "The Dark Crystal" definitely made a huge impression on me. Also "The Nightmare Before Christmas." My favorite monster book is "Monster Poems" (Holiday House, 1976). It's a collection of poems with these cool illustrations done in a palette of just orange and blue and white.
Q: What's your favorite kind of monster?
A: I love dragons.
Q: What's your least favorite monster?
A: I think zombies are a great idea, and they're fascinating. Having the dead walk around is the most frightening thing I can think of, even more than vampires and werewolves. But at the same time, I have no interest whatsoever in dressing up as a zombie or being around people who are dressed up as zombies. I can't say I don't have use for them; I just don't want to make friends with them. It's not my idea of a good time.
Q: But isn't Raul dead? He's walking around dead, right?
A: Yes, but I draw a distinction between skeletons and zombies. I grew up in a culture with a lot of skeleton imagery, where skeletons are portrayed as being very lively and doing regular things that everybody does - going to the movies or selling hot dogs. I've never seen a zombie in a boxing match or selling hot dogs. They're not in control of their faculties, while skeletons are, if you want to get technical on all of this made-up stuff.