The Truth of Monsters: I believed I experienced Terence McKenna's “Machine Elves” as a young boy, not as a result of DMT but as part of a brain fever I had only a 50-50 chance of surviving. I would not liken them to woodland creatures or unicorns, but then acid-dropping hippies were the first to hit the beach and report what they saw. They reached for the emblematic language of their culture, and the rest was kitsch.
I have spent the greater portion of my life trying to capture these entities strange mixture of terror and whimsy. In art, this is best represented in my monster painting of the 90s, which are inscrutable to even me. I have since retreated from these unfiltered views, or at least I have domesticated my monsters to fit into functional landscapes with less discord.
The Death Rattle of Tchaikovsky (oil) 1990. Near the end of my education at IU, a fellow student introduced me to the works of Giuseppe Arcimboldo, the Sixteenth Century Italian/German painter best known for portraying human sitters as composites of various plant and animal matter. In discovering him, I was given a precedent for the type of painting I wanted to pursue.
Steak Knife Facial (oil) 1992. I ended up destroying this canvas, probably because I tried to carve out negative space in it and failed. Perhaps out of regret (or guilt), I later used the red fish pictured here in Le Voiture d’un Buffoon Flambé. It is seen in the second detail of that painting below.
Cowboy Still-Life (oil) 1990. This still-life includes a tea bag, plastic ants, and a dried-up apple core. I intended no allusion to the practice of including momento mori references in an still-life, such as was done by painters of The Dutch Baroque. Regardless, this painting was out of character for me, and was later cannibalized for the Epic Dermis painting below.
Epic Dermis (oil and oil collage) 1990-1993
Epic Dermis (detail)
Le Voiture d’un Buffoon Flambé (oil) 1990-1993
Le Voiture d’un Buffoon Flambé (detail 1)
Le Voiture d’un Buffoon Flambé (detail 2)
Shadow of the Earwig (oil) 1990-1993
Shadow of the Earwig (detail 1)
Shadow of the Earwig (detail 2)
A Final Note: For the next chapter, we must move to the lowbrow, pop-surrealist movement and my loose association therewith. I would like to think that I was in the vanguard of all that; and like all pioneers, one invents with imagination where one cannot discover with facts. The level of precision and vision among today’s inheritors of the lowbrow tradition is breathtaking, but one must be reminded that sources of inspiration, or at least examples of what was achievable in divergent thought, were few and far between in the early going. Perhaps sources of inspiration were out there, but without Juxtapoz and High Fructose magazines to broadcast these ideas, they fell on hard soil.
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