The streets of Seattle at midnight are an amazing place, teeming with artists roaming the urban landscape. In Seattle, every artist worth paying any attention to is born with wheat paste, spray paint and a brush in hand. Home to such artistic luminaries as Ego, Ryan Henry Ward and Weirdo—Seattle has an incredible art scene that has been growing exponentially over the past several years.

In the thick of it all is Xavier Lopez Jr. “Cool,” “urban,” “goth,” “kawaii,” “pop surrealist” or whatever definition you might want to come up with, Lopez’ artistic style crosses over many boundaries and unsettles them all. Most recently, Lopez’ work has been described as “gleefully disturbing," a cross between very old Fleischer cartoons and their animated nightmares, giving us a glimpse into the disquieting world that we all invent for ourselves before we have a chance to make sense of the universe and its vast contradictions.

Within Lopez’ world there are many landscapes: caves, a vast ocean, snowscapes, living trees, and always the sense that one has crossed over into the deep end. “I want viewers of my work to feel as they do just before going over the cliff at Splash Mountain, or to feel the way they did as a child when they found out that Bambi’s mother was about to die. That moment of extreme consciousness, when everything is so precious and one realizes something very important—which is different for everybody, and which according to Kierkegaard you cannot realize fully and take with you, because to do so would lead to madness.”

It is this madness that one can see in the wild-eyed stare that is such a part of Xavier Lopez’ work, and permeates the insane smile that sets it apart and draws so many to it, while scaring the hell out of many others. “That smile,” he adds, “that is the void, that is the power-punch that tells the viewer that there is something else going on here.” It is the smile of the muse and the multi-armed skeleton, and it is the darkness behind the kawaii.

Xavier Lopez’ work is not just cute, there is a darkness to it that is as vast as this thing called life and as complex as its obverse. His dreamscapes are filled with pain and wonder, innocence and perversity, but mostly a sense of fun that keeps drawing more and more viewers to play in the “deep end” of his imagination.

Continually growing and evolving, fans of his work never know what to expect from the artist. “I love testing myself, teasing and trying new things, most recently I have been doing a lot of murals in the Seattle area with a group of very talented, young artists, and I have begun plans to work on a not-so children’s book, and even a cartoon based on the Muse and her adventures. This is an amazing time in which it feels as though anything is possible and an artist just needs to put his mind and his imagination into motion to see it through.”

Xavier Lopez’ work can be found at various art galleries in the Seattle area, including the Short Stop Café, Echo Echo Gallery in the Greenwood Collective and the Twilight Collective, as well as on many murals, posters and prints. He is also the author of a blog that covers the alternative to alternative art scene in Seattle for the online “zombie newspaper,” the Seattle Post Intelligencer.