Poignant and Surreal: Eric Joyner and Lori Nelson at Corey Helford Gallery

helford rockin at sharkeys

helford cat

One of the most engaging aspects of the current exhibitions at Corey Helford Gallery is that they are both visually entertaining and metaphorically deep. These are the figures of a childhood that never was, stories that could yet be. Steeped in magical realism, artists Eric Joyner and Lori Nelson each offer a strangely satisfying assessment of technology, childhood, fairy tales, and childish things roaming about in the world.

San Francisco-based artist Eric Joyner’s “Tarsus Bondon Dot” is an exhibition of large scale images that often feature brightly colored robots and large-scale donuts. The realistic style of Joyner’s landscapes belies their whimsical surrealism.

helford ice cream The oil on panel “Special Delivery” features a robot driving an ice cream truck into an abyss; “All Systems Go” sends a not-too-happy cat into space; while in “Escape Velocity,” an X-12 tears through the clouds while giant donuts rise like a monolith in the background. “Rockin’ at Sharkeys” depicts a big robot crowd watching a robot match-up in a boxing ring. 

Helfod escape velocity

Absurd though these images may be, they ably depict aspects of real life in juxtapositions that make viewers smile. Working in a vibrant palette that full utilizes the texture and depth of oil, Joyner manages to fuse the amusing, the touching, the strange, and the mysterious in his Transformers-like fairy tale world.


In Gallery 2, Lori Nelson’s bewitchingly lovely  “Cryptotweens: Find My Friends” pairs well with Joyner. Both artists work in oil and use fanciful figures and sharp wit; both have an underpinning of wistfulness, even sadness.  Nelson’s fairy tale scenes are darker than Joyner’s, illustrating with delicate precision a parallel world in which creatures both human and not traverse a territory that is frozen between childhood and adulthood. Personal growth aside, these inhabitants have bigger things on their mind – avoiding or girding themselves to co-exist with a technology that is threatening to overtake them.

Nelson’s dark blue palette creates a nighttime world in which her characters roam, hide, and search. The exhibition’s title piece, the diptych “Find My Friends” reveals two almost-tweens using hand-held computers as if they were flashlights, creating beams of light to undertake a search in a dark forest. A raccoon, an owl, a bunny, and a squirrel accompany them, with glowing red eyes. The squirrel holds a satellite dish, while behind them, other satellite dishes float on a river.

helford OPT-OUT-IV-01

“Opt Out IV” has a cryptotween curled up seeking safety and escape below ground. Cozily snuggled with bunnies beneath the roots of a tree, above ground satellite dishes and scanners ominously proliferate.

Helford dancer

And in gallery three, lush paintings by Iva Troj & Sergio Lopez create classical images in a rich dreamscape.

Running through June 3rd, these shows serve as both fascinating art and highly entertaining pop culture – with a little shiver of recognition thrown in. 

Corey Helford is located at 571 S. Anderson Street in DTLA.

  • Genie Davis; photos Genie Davis and courtesy of Corey Helford Gallery