Reared on cult classics like “Planet of the Apes,” “Silent Running” and “Westworld,” Francis Kohler, a horror flick maniac and science fiction buff, found a way to translate his affinity for the fantastical into an art career.
The teacher, studio manager and services coordinator at Creativity Explored, a San Francisco nonprofit visual arts center for artists with developmental disabilities, was interested in how such artists would interpret well-known images, people, objects and characters from pop culture.
With movie monsters on his mind, Kohler curated an exhibit in 2004 that asked Creativity Explored artists to depict iconic images from the genre. The exhibit spiraled into a series, and in 2007 comic superheroes and villains invaded the gallery.
Beginning today and running through Nov. 21, the likes of the logic-spewing Vulcan, Spock, and Robotrix of “Metropolis” will grace the walls of Creativity Explored as part of the third installment, “‘Science’ Fiction.”
Naturally, the opening reception is a costumed affair and science fiction attire is encouraged.
One of the great things about working with the artists of Creativity Explored, Kohler says, is that their output isn’t sabotaged with self-doubt or overthinking.
“[The artists’] unique visual spin always yields a number of surprising and sublime images,” he says. With renditions of the buxom Barbarella and robots aplenty, the sci-fi art showcase also delivers historical insight.
Textual elements interspersed throughout the exhibit bring to light the manner in which disabilities were once regarded by the science community, which Kohler says are likely to be considered laughable, if not offensive, today.
Founded in 1983 by Florence and Elias Katz, Creativity Explored provides people with developmental disabilities the opportunity to use art as a means of self-expression and as an avenue to earn money. Heidi Hennessy’s drawing of Spock has been reproduced as a shirt, which will be available for purchase at the gallery.
The organization’s commitment to providing artists with a forum to generate income also can be seen in partnerships with Recchiuti Confections, CB2 (a Crate and Barrel enterprise) and AvalonBay Communities.
Many of the artists don’t necessarily share Kohler’s fanaticism for sci-fi — only Hennessy qualifies as a “Trekkie” — but he nevertheless is impressed with the work they created on the topic.
“The artists brought what I knew they would bring to the subject matter: a unique and beautifully idiosyncratic take on pop-cultural icons from the world of science fiction,” Kohler says.
IF YOU GO
Where: Creativity Explored, 3245 16th St., San Francisco
When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays-Wednesdays and Fridays; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays; 1 to 6 p.m. Saturdays; opening reception 7 to 9 p.m. today; closes Nov. 21
Contact: (415) 863-2108, www.creativityexplored.org