Greg Dohler is that rarest humanoid: a nice guy who can hold down a full-time job, show up socially on time, and cook dinner, but also a guy gifted with superbly special creative vision he knows how to bring to life. You might also know him as the lanky blond drummer from Baltimore bands Helikopter (early ’90s) and, until recently, Small Apartments. Greg and his wife, Cindy France, are good friends of my husband–now they’re also mine–so I’ve had some patient time to sit on their black vintage couch, drink the classic cocktails Greg researches and mixes up, and listen to him think out loud. When Greg showed me his new photo montage work last year, I remember I was sitting on a step in his house in Ham Roll (where Hampden meets Roland Park). I wanted to convey how much I liked the work–because I did–but first I just wanted to fall into it, to belong to its luxuriously weird world. A child in a kerchief, from another age, rode a donkey; an old woman haunted a marshy landscape; a Baltimore rowhouse’s second story perched precariously at an eerie coastline. (See above the same photo I recall, “Home.”) “Wow,” I whispered dully. Every element worked together so organically–if surreally–I felt like I was inside the frame finding my legs on a new planet. I’ve seen surreal photo montage now and again, and it has never really been my cup of (bloody) tea, but Greg’s digitally blended work feels wholly other. There’s a destructive/redemptive quality to Dohler’s vision, a longing, a mourning, and yet a hopeful magic at play here. A comparison? Not easy. Kiki Smith’s gentle rendering of girl and beast in “Lying with the Wolf” pops to mind. But mostly I’m reminded how well Greg sees with his mind’s eye. (A bio side note that makes more sense to me than ever: Greg’s dad was the beloved low-budget sci-fi and horror film director Don Dohler. )
I talked to my friend about the genesis of his photo project and what he’s working on now. You can catch his latest work starting tomorrow and running through September 20th at 13.5% Wine Bar in Hampden–1117 W. 36th Street. To see more of Greg’s art visit his website.