When Allegra Rose first watched “The Ring” from her home in Texas, it wasn’t the sight of ghoulish Samara Morgan that inspired her to paint, but the distinct recollection of the scent of decay in the Pacific Northwest forest.
Rose, an artist who uses the pseudonym Scruffy Jones, relocated from South Whidbey to Texas during her time in the military. Though she said it was never her intention to stay for an extended period of time, she elected to attend school there and eventually became drawn to the culture and folklore of the Lone Star State, remaining there for over a decade.
“Unapologetically drunk” community members tubing down rivers, seas of refuse and emptied booze bottles in abandoned homes and campsites and numerous tall tales quickly became fodder for the artist’s creative spirit.
“Texas has given me an appreciation for creepy horror movies,” she said. “There is a romantic feel of the desert, the smell, the folklore of Texas.”
Rose noted that South Whidbey has its own artistically evocative “creepiness,” of the woods, gray skies and rainy days.
“When I was living in Texas and saw [‘The Ring’] I could smell the decomposition, the decaying leaves,” she said. “There is a very strong sense of smell that stays with you about the Pacific Northwest. There is a mystery to that. The appreciation of creepiness is something you can see in my work, I think.”
The artist said she credits fellow artist and Texan George Zupp, also known as Chicken George, with granting her a deeper appreciation of horror stories such as “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Friday the 13th,” which mingle the landscape of Texas, mesquite trees, barren deserts, with the emotions of desolation, isolation and fear.
“It’s super creepy and bizarre. If your car breaks down [in Texas] you have no idea what’s going to happen. You don’t know who’s going to be there,” she said with a chuckle. “There is a kind of stereotype that they may be missing some teeth and come out with a gun.”
Her work she describes as primarily figurative, depicting a medley of characters including clowns, bar rats, birds and party-goers.
Bright primary colors stand out against bleak, gray backdrops in several of her paintings, reflecting the landscapes and colorful personalities she most often represents.
Rose currently resides in the woods near Maxwelton Road in Clinton with her partner, in the same woods in which she was reared along with her sisters Minda, Kendra and Brenna. In her self-described old and “very rustic” cabin on Four Sisters Road, she has begun building a studio and gallery for her work. According to Rose, life in the cabin is a dream come true.
“Since I was 24 or 25 I have dreamed of living in that cabin,” she said. It’s appealing … I like the privacy; I like the quiet; I like the owls.”
Along with her paintings, Rose creates hair and owl sculptures and puppets, the latter she said are inspired largely by her childhood spent with grandmother and grandfather, former “Howdy Doody Time” puppeteers.
The hair sculptures—Texas Longhorn style pieces worn atop Rose’s head, creating the look of an anthropomorphic cowgirl—may have been glimpsed by South Whidbey residents traveling down Maxwelton this summer. Rose said she and her friend and fellow artist whom she calls Button, came up with the idea, one she said she intends to expand upon by attaching the cart to her bicycle in hopes of riding from Four Sisters Road into Langley along with her dog.
“She and her work are a hoot,” said Marian Myszkowski, director of programs and fund development at Goosefoot.
Rose’s works will be displayed in the Bayview Cash Store Oct. 11 through Nov. 19. This will be her first show in South Whidbey. More of her work can be viewed at her blog, scruffyjones.blogspot.com.