The Alternative Gallery: Brandon Wunder and Rob Riegel “Weird is good!”
“Weird is good!” The words from The Alternative Gallery’s hard working artist and Horror fan, Brandon Wunder. What is art? Art is an expression! When you think of galleries, you think of quant, sleek lined buildings with art work hung at eye level, just waiting for a permanent home. The Alternative Art Gallery is the complete opposite! Located in the city of Allentown in an old Cigar Factory was transformed into a place for local artists to display their incredible work! It is a factory that has been untouched and they are currently running some parts of the building with no lighting.
The art stands out as soon as you walk through the doors! The building itself is a piece of art. Old factory parts and pieces of metal wrap around the ceiling and artwork from all over the Valley is strewn about the building! It is exactly what you think Van Gogh or Picasso would have loved have they been around today.
Easels standing up with canvases and every type of art work from pop art, pen and ink, charcoal, watercolor and old school televisions painted with the likings of “Dawn of The Dead” and random colorful uses that would make even the most critical person miss having an old school black and white television!
The Alternative Gallery is a non-profit organization and they like to focus on starting an artist career and leading them in the proper direction. They literally could draw you a map if you would prefer.
There is something different about The Alternative Gallery that stands out. Brandon Wunder and Rob Riegel who set up the gallery are Horror fans. They are not only fans but they appreciate the lively talent in the Horror community. Their doors are open to fellow Horror fans who may feel they do not always have a place. At times we are deemed “the naughty kids who should stay in the corner” but they stand out and speak up for Horror.
The gallery even paid tribute to the 30th Anniversary of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. The gallery walls bared Freddy Krueger’s face instead of the Mona Lisa. Brandon and Rob have also attended a lot of Horror conventions including Monster Mania in Cherry Hill, NJ.
There is artwork featuring DEXTER, Hannibal Lector and some beautiful macabre that would make Clive Barker smile. The Alternative Gallery allows artist the opportunity to display their work and become part of community events such as the upcoming Arts Fest at Cedar Beach. There is an array of work that can be seen and it is not all disappointing. If you are one of those people that thinks “Oh, I just cannot go and look at art!” You may want to re-think that thought!
The beauty is relentless. You must see it for yourself to realize this place is not your average, everyday gallery. It is a collage of pieces put together by some of the most talented artists. It takes what a gallery should be to the next level.
I was fortunate enough to interview Brandon and Rob. The gallery is busy and everyone is hustling around working and getting ready for Allentown Arts Fest but these two multi-talented artist took time out for an interview.
Janel: Where did the idea for The Alternative Gallery stem from?
Brandon: I think what we have grown into is a big reflection of who we are. We felt the other venues were not a perfect fit for us and the more outlandish, off the wall, batsh*t crazy or whatever you want to call it. There is a desire for people to see that kind of work and I felt it didn’t really exist. We had the idea to create a space to show these kind of offbeat, rebel artists. I am not saying rebel as in rebelling but, rebel in the sense that we don’t fit in other categories. I think the people we have collected for the gallery over time really match that and Allentown has always been important to me personally. I was born and raised in Allentown. I know the transition it has made from being one of the best cities in the country to falling into hard times and being lower income with relatively nothing to offer.
I always knew there was potential here and Easton and Bethlehem for the past fifteen to twenty years have had really strong Art scenes and Allentown did not. In order for us to have a unified Lehigh Valley, you must produce a stronger Allentown. I like the underdog story that Allentown offered. Allentown was the city that everyone liked to pick on and kick when it was down. We had a lot of doubters at first and now with all the changes the city is going through, I think that we’ve kind of proven to ourselves that we made the right choice.
(I was able to watch Rob work on a project and he has music playing in the background and a decapitated head that has become part of the gallery or “an unofficial mascot.” Rob was working on a project for one of the local neighborhood kid’s sister’s party.)
Janel: How did you and Brandon meet and start the gallery?
Rob: We met a little over two years ago. He had seen a lot of my work online. We came up with this bright idea to start our own artist run gallery. The idea for the gallery grew a lot faster than we expected.
Janel: What do you think motivates an artist and what is important for their work to manifest?
Brandon: When an artist sees something in perspective. Perspective is everything. When you can look at a random object and turn it into your own artwork that makes you an artist. Photography included! The one thing I took from photography that I use as a logic for other things when I’m capturing an image is this the shot that everyone else will take? If yes, then what is the point of taking the shot? So let me try a different perspective that people do not usually approach. If you apply that to different things, that is the heart to creativity. I am always searching for a different way.
Janel: Where do you think some of the artists ideas come from?
Rob: I think it stems from their background, teenage influence and how they grew up.
Janel: What would you say to an upcoming young artist?
Rob: Use that to your advantage and if people are trying to discourage you from creating artwork it is because they do not have the confidence in you. In the end other people’s confidence does not matter. Take something from your heart and make it real and you are an artist. You are an artist if you take your feelings and emotions. If you are dedicated enough, stubborn enough you can make it as an artist. The Alternative Gallery is different from a commercial gallery. We do not want to strictly profit off of the work.
Janel: Favorite Horror Movie:
Rob: 28 DAYS LATER
Janel: Favorite horror film?
Brandon: DAWN OF THE DEAD! I go back and forth between NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and DAY OF THE DEAD. I have formed so many friendships over those movies. (Brandon also noted he is a big Tom Atkins fan and met him)
Janel: How can someone become involved with The Alternative Gallery?
Rob: Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or Facebook/ The Alternative Gallery, Instagram-The Alternative Gallery or just come on in and bring some of your work along! They are also on Twitter: @AlternativeAG
Brandon also noted that people can come in and volunteer for events. They can help man the doors or move chairs around and while you are there you will get to take a look at some amazing art work so check out The Alternative Gallery, the next big thing in Allentown, PA.
Some of the talented artist shown in the photos include:
Stacy Pierce “Shreddy Krueger”
Ian Fetterman “Ian’s Pumpkin Carving”
Stephen Leibensperger – EVIL DEAD inspired picture
Rob Riegel “Fume Head”
Ben Dudden “The Anti-Heroes”
Brandon Wunder – Bones and “Sunset Showers”