Don't let the chipped black nail polish fool you. Twenty-eight-year-old artist DC Ice is less a brooding goth than she is a rough-and-tumble snowboarding chick. Her sweet, chirping voice belies the morbid nature of her illustrations -- sinister images culled from a string of brief, and vivid, encounters with gore.

"When I was little, I broke out my best friend's teeth three times," she said.

In a cute, girly pitch she recounts the gruesome leap-frog accident that left her play date's mouth a gnarly mess of wet crimson. ("I held that blame in for so long.") The story reminds her of her own dental trauma, when she spit bloody bits of molar into a plastic cup after a serious car accident. And that's not to mention the time her cat delivered a bunny corpse to her as a present, its neck bent at an agonizing angle.

Ice's style balances cutesy icons of girldom -- scrapbooking stamps, cuddly animals, antique frames -- with a grim Victorian charm. She's like the mirthful daughter of Edward Gorey. Or, if you'd prefer, Jen Davis' evil twin. Scratchy dark lines and mouths crammed full of jagged shards deface a cast of otherwise child-friendly characters. Several of her collages will debut in "I Dreamed I Dream," the Gallery at Fox Tax's offering in this year's Art-A-Whirl festival in northeast Minneapolis.

Sound a little dark for a springtime gallery crawl? Wait 'til you hear who's curating the exhibit: Emma Berg, the bubbly art diva known as much for her merriment as she is for her pink-clad website, mplsart.com. The show kicks off a series of six back-to-back, Berg-directed exhibitions at the hipster accounting office Fox Tax. Though it does fall in line with a few other spook-centric Art-A-Whirl events (check out Dominic Rouse's paranormal portraits at the Ice Box Gallery), "I Dreamed I Dream" is definitely a departure for Berg, whose spring event last year was a bonanza of pastel tones and overripe female fecundity.

So what's with this year's despondency?

"The show is a bit of gloom," Berg admits, "but it is also about escapism, optimism, holding on and moving forward. I want the world to be a dream of sweetness and goodness ... but things become worn. There are cracks in the porcelain."

Still, "I Dreamed I Dream" is far from a bummer. The sheer youth of the artists -- Ice, at 28, is the geezer of the bunch -- coupled with their immense talent and original subject matter makes for a pretty uplifting vibe. These artists are going to be producing enthralling work for a long time.

The star, undoubtedly, is Deuce Seven. In the last year and a half, the 21-year-old graffiti artist has become a Flickr celebrity, and after a painting spree in the Big Apple two winters ago, he had the Village Voice asking, "Is a guy from Minnesota the new king of New York street art?"

The short answer, of course, is yes. It's hard to imagine a more street-art-saturated community than New York, but Deuce's paintings stand apart because of the precision of his strokes -- controlled violence rendered in bright slivers of acrylic. Efficient and sharp, like a judo chop. A Tim Burton horror show in Technicolor, his characters range from nightmarish insects to Freddy Krueger-clawed schoolboys. Vampy female monsters sport stitch-mark scars and fishnets, and his ghastly drawings of passenger trains inherit a kinetic feel from fast pencil scratches.

Nineteen-year-old Rudy Fig is the show's other female participant, and her Garbage Pail Kids-meets-Bratz Dolls plays nicely with DC Ice. Her pouty-lipped girls pose like Candyland villains, promising poisoned treats of ice cream, cupcakes and skulls.

Keith Eric Williams, a young graphic designer from Kansas City, rounds out the bunch. Though his work is the least grim of the group, his paintings earn their spot in the show for their technical merit, and his soft color blends make for a subtle foil to Deuce Seven's vivid storms.

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