Brutal but loving honesty helps bind Lauren Davis and Tomi Reichard's relationship.

Brutal but loving honesty helps bind Lauren Davis and Tomi Reichard's relationship.

"I like to say he just came over and never left," said Davis, smiling, while talking about how her betrothed came to live with her and their dog Dexter (named after the laboratory, not the serial killer).

Reichard's sly smile back at her is indicative of how much he appreciates that ribbing kind of honesty.

"We're pretty good at critiquing one another," Davis said, a routine they got into while taking classes together at CCAD, where they met. "I'm a perfectionist."

Davis is also a photographer and Reichard is a fine artist who paints and makes tinker toy-style sculptures. Recently the two decided to take advantage of their ability to ask more of the other's art without getting hurt by the suggestions.

"Why not work with someone you love and get along with?" Reichard asked. "And someone who can be completely honest with you?"

The two started a collective of sorts called Mustache Machine and Black Betty, named for a former line of vinyl toys Reichard was working on (his style is Mark Twain meets steampunk robot) and the nickname Davis' friends gave her in college because she loved the Ram Jam song by the same name.

Together, Davis and Reichard worked on a multimedia series, later displayed at 83 Gallery, of cardboard characters drawn by Reichard (e.g. anthropomorphic worms, rocket ships, armadillos) and then photographed by Davis in various settings (e.g. a garden or on a photo set).

The series marries both of their styles - one could not tell their story without the other. Reichard's fun and mad scientisty sort of approach takes on sentimentality and meaning in the way and where Davis poses them. And her seriousness of scene selection becomes thoughtful, almost jovial, with Reichard's touch.

"Tom keeps me balanced," Davis said. "We're like little kids sometimes. We like going on adventures and having fun. We act like we don't need to grow up but we have big ideas."