A new show at Coeur d'Alene's 5th Dimension Studios delivers dollhouse-inspired artwork

click to enlarge A new show at Coeur d'Alene's 5th Dimension Studios delivers dollhouse-inspired artwork
Dollhouse rooms by Christina Villagomez, Audreana Camm and Angie Hanson

Some artworks can transport you to another place and time. Christina Villagomez has a different destination in mind: the fifth dimension. Through her illustrations and tattoos, the themed art exhibitions she organizes, Villagomez encourages people to reconsider reality, including in the upcoming "Dollhouse" art exhibition at her 5th Dimensions Studios in downtown Coeur d'Alene.

Inside the innocuous two-story office building where Villagomez runs her tattoo business, Starship Ink, each of five doors is painted a different rainbow color: purple, blue, orange, red, yellow. On each door is a cast of a human face, framed and painted to match the door.

"I wanted each room to be kind of a portal," says Villagomez, whose tattoo business lies behind the purple door.

The modest second-story space is a repository for Villagomez's unusual design aesthetic, which extends to the shows she curates. Her monochromatic ink drawings hang on the wall, combining Art Nouveau elements with pulp sci-fi, fantasy and horror motifs and the occasional mushroom. Other funky elements include a neon spaceman on the wall, chairs resembling a cupped palm, and an electric pink rug in the shape of parted lips.

Past exhibits at 5th Dimension include "Body of Horror: Anatomy Viewed Through a Female Gaze" and "Folklore," which featured forest-like installations eerily illuminated under blacklight.

Next, "Dollhouse" features 11 artists, all female. Each was given an empty shoebox-like "room" ranging from 10 to 36 inches wide to transform.

Katelyn Burdette, for example, is filling her bathroom with miniature anthropomorphized ceramic animals while Villagomez's bedroom is inspired by '70s and '80s Italian horror films like Mario Bava's Blood and Black Lace and Dario Argento's Inferno.

Dollhouses are traditionally keyed to female gender, as are some artmaking media, like textiles, Villagomez says.

"I feel like in art sometimes the things that are considered womanly are almost looked down on a little bit," she says, adding that many artists in the "Dollhouse" show are instead bringing a "creepy" dimension to their rooms.

Artist Shannon Erwin, whose murals grace Coeur d'Alene's Honey Eatery & Social Club, designed the multistory dollhouse and built each empty room. Erwin is reassembling the artists' diminutive dioramas into a roughly 4-foot-tall house, which will be displayed on the floor.

The completed house will be the only thing in the room where it's installed and will be dark except for the dollhouse. An eerie soundtrack composed by artist Sarah Windisch — she's creating a laundry room — will play in the background, Villagomez says.

"So we're just hoping it's really immersive when you walk in," Villagomez says, adding that she'll restrict traffic so each visitor can truly experience the artwork.

"We're gonna have two cushions here so that people have to get on the ground and kind of kneel to look into the piece," Villagomez says. "You have to get on the level of the art instead of it being up on a platform."

"Dollhouse" was inspired by Villagomez's post-college days with friend and fellow artist Melaina Bell, who's creating the installation's kitchen.

"We used to have house parties right after we graduated college where we'd build these kind of sets" for people to experience, says Villagomez, who originally attended North Idaho College for journalism, got into graphic design, then segued to tattooing.

Villagomez opened 5th Dimension Studios in June 2022 and by fall of that year was hosting themed art shows geared toward a mix of artists, some established and some emerging.

"I really wanna include people in my age group or younger that maybe aren't traditionally getting in shows or maybe don't feel comfortable submitting work to shows 'cause they don't feel like there's a place for them," she says.

Representative imagery from each artist is also included in a commemorative poster, something Villagomez does for each exhibition she organizes. That way, everyone can take something from their experience at 5th Dimension with them when they go. ♦

Dollhouse • Reception Fri, May 12 from 5-10 pm; on display through June 5, open Mon-Fri from 11 am- 6 pm or by appointment • 5th Dimension Studios • 421 E. Coeur d'Alene Ave. • 208-966-4442

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Carrie Scozzaro

Carrie Scozzaro spent nearly half of her career serving public education in various roles, and the other half in creative work: visual art, marketing communications, graphic design, and freelance writing, including for publications throughout Idaho, Washington, and Montana.