It’s difficult to analyze the expression on her face, the redhead glancing coyly from the cover of Tara McPherson’s Lost Constellations. Her hair is wet and plastered to her pale, almost blue skin. The futuristic landscape that surrounds her is populated with secret faces and sharp teeth. The redhead is looking somewhere we can’t see, right off the edge of the page, and I like it that way, because I remain curious. I want to know what she’s looking at; I want to find out why she appears so confident, despite the gaping, bleeding hole in her chest. A hole in the shape of a heart.

I don’t know how she does it, that Tara. How does she manage to create a Mona Lisa expression on the faces of her comic book heroines? Don’t argue with me. McPherson’s characters have the body of Wonder Woman and yet a look of deep secretiveness arrests their beautiful features. They know something we don’t: something about strength and power that only a frozen landscape and their broken bodies can reveal.

Have you ever had your heart ripped out? Probably not. Well, I hope not. McPherson’s beautiful girls, their hair crystallized with frost, pose nude with useless, doughnut umbrellas above their heads, demure smiles on their faces, but something is missing. Their hearts. Yes, they are bleeding, but the hole in their chest is in the shape of a perfect, pretty little heart. And yet they command your attention, demand your gaze, despite their… short-comings. The sort-of feminist in me can’t pull my eyes away from the potential symbolism, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. How is it that, even in a position of extreme vulnerability and weakness, they do not solicit sympathy or pity? They are not lying on the ground, comatose, or near death. These damsels are not in distress.

The comic strip, Dream a Little Dream,  from McPherson’s previous book Lonely Heart, is a doe-eyed explanation of the “heartless” theme that runs throughout her work. The simplicity of this childlike story, however, adds a simultaneously whimsical and gothic element to McPherson’s complete collection. Her aesthetic, though cartoonish in some pieces, is reminiscent of Emily the Strange. Heavy bangs cover the eyes of some girls but, amazingly, that does not detract from their expressions. In fact, it gives the artist an opportunity to create strength in other elements of the face. Props and background are used to great and unique effect. Balloons, unicorns, futuristic sea creatures, unusual biological anatomy, and the unexpected converge to create a landscape unlike anything you’ve seen before.

McPherson’s work is not typical. She has managed to fuse together the sensibilities of a tattoo, graffiti, comic book and visual artist into one cohesive vision. Each piece is a conversation starter. It’s impossible to look at one painting without asking a dozen questions. Lost Constellations is a particularly unique scope of sculpture, paintings, and drawings that show the creative process from start to finish. Featured sketches give the reader a welcome glance at McPherson’s adept hand, whose pencil outlines have an incredible amount of detail. Her talent is palpable.

Now, if only Tori Amos and Miss Tara could collaborate on an art project. The metaphors would explode right off the canvas!

Check out the embedded links and let me know what you think!