Exhibit preview: Paul Bearer's carny critters

Jackie Mantey, Columbus Alive

The tangled roots of the deliciously depraved world of artist Paul Bearer's misfit toys started growing in his childhood.

A son of a classy Jewish family - the kind that took road trips with itinerariesand had lots of ceramic collectibles and needlepoint - his love of trash, crass and ass was, well, discouraged. He said he wanted to learn to play guitar and his parents bought him a flamenco guitar, etc.

At 19, he became a thrift store junkie, "which my parents found appalling," he said. He dropped out of George Washington University business school and played in a Philly punk band called The Serial Killers. A dope addiction that left him "fucking up beautifully all over Philadelphia" led him with his "tail between [his] legs" to Columbus.

Decades (and some temporal lobe scarring from the drugs) later, 12 steps took him to a new promised land. But it was art, which kept his mind and hands busy, that saved him.

"This became my obsession," Bearer said. "If not hammers and toys, it'd be a needle and a spoon."

His work deconstructs found toys and "facilitates and enables them to achieve higher evolution," he said.

There are geneses: dragon ladies, reaper clowns, octopussies, post-apocalyptic taxi drivers. You can get deep with them too: The alien strippers' voluptuous body parts come from Bratz dolls. (What are we selling little girls?!) The junkie birds' heads come from "World's Best Mom" statues.

If it creeps you out or makes you uncomfortable, he's done his job.

The pieces sell between $5 and $50 and Bearer will have you know he's starving. Hint, hint.

"They're available for bad homes everywhere," he said.

Closing reception/ "adoption" party

(Feel free to bring toys for dismantling, too)

What the Rock?!

7-10 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25

1194 N. High St., Short North