Statments & Essays

Asian Characters and Other Concerns

(circa 2005)

As many artists do, I have developed a cannon of repeated imagery that benchmark my style and my metaphoric theology. It would appear that the same questions inevitably pop into the minds of the viewer. I have decided to make a glossary of sorts, for those who feel that their own answers are unsatisfactory and need to hear it from the horses mouth.

Some of the most commonly asked questions about my work have dealt with the asian characters placed in my prints. The symbols are a somewhat blunt metaphor for a state of unknowing a greater meaning. Signs and symbols which have meaning to someone, somewhere, but foreign to my understanding. I enjoy the idea that I am sending out a message that I do not understand, that the print could take on a completely different meaning to someone in another part of the world.

On the most basic level the characters are a graphic element. In most peoples minds, photoshop is a graphic designers tool. I want the “practical” aspect of advertising media that computers are associated with to be acknowledged. “Commercial art” is overwhelmingly the most viewed, created and accepted art. “Commercial artist” is the only artistic field that our protestant work ethic society accepts. That being said, if 99.9% of artistic images are created for commercial use, then one must say that 99.9% of the time, the viewer is asking, “what are they selling?” But unlike commercial art, fine art is meant to show, not tell. I want viewers to ask questions, and then imagine their own answers.

I am heavily influenced by the irreverent incongruity of Dadaism. I also place text in my work partly as a nod to John Heartfield and Dada’s use of text in early collage/montage art. Dada leaned heavy on commercial mass media images to draw upon, and comment on. I see the asian text over a european language text as a method of truly randomizing meaning. Human minds automatically attempt to apply meaning to words and create context. This doesn’t just apply to the viewer, but to the artist as well. There is no true way for me to randomly apply words without my mind, consciously or subconsciously choosing some kind of message. By randomly using these symbols I come as close as I’ll ever come to being an illiterate child, blissfully arranging wooden alphabet blocks, completely oblivious to the words he’s spelling, the meaning those words have, the messages he’s sending out, the world he’s creating.

Another common question posed to me is the relevance of the omnipresence of children in my imagery. Children are fresh out of oblivion, the closest a human can be to creation, which means closest to God. But that transition from oblivion to existence renders them incapable of communicating and expressing themselves. Children have secrets. Children have knowledge. But it’s a knowledge without translation. I see children as little aliens that I want to interrogate and demand answers from. But ask a two year old what it was like to be born, you won’t get a satisfactory answer. People have commented that my expression of children tend to be ominous, foreboding and even terrifying. In my mind, the concepts of infinity, eternity, birth, death, God and existence are some of the most ominous, foreboding and terrifying concepts. I refer to children as “they,” because we are not them. I was a child. I am not anymore. My knowledge is lost.

I have been criticized/commented for the heavy usage of graphic sexual imagery mixed with overtly morbid sometimes violent themes. I will not spend too much time on this issue. To discuss the relevance of sex, death and violence in art is the same as discussing the relevance of art itself or the relevance of life itself. Humans are put here to create more humans. This dictate is hardwired into our brain from birth. The simple statement is made complex because we have been given the great gift of circumventing this programing and use this instinct for recreation. Some would say it’s not a great gift, it’s a great curse. Everything we do, from the moment we wake until the moment we sleep revolves around the desire to attract sexual contact. Whether it’s the decision to wear a certain pair of shoes, or the decision to declare a certain war. All decisions made in the human existence can be broken down to a sexual motive. And then we die.

The use of bright color is another component of my work that is often commented on. Many are confused by the contrast of bright happy color and what they perceive as dark, often terrifying imagery. There is no confusion in my mind. I am in love with myself and my world. The worst most painful experiences we have are still experiences. Bitter is as important as sweet. From feast to feces, I believe ALL of life is a gift. Everything is vivid and I indulge anything that makes me feel anything. I associate bright candy colors with a child’s view of the world. As I have already stated, it’s a view I covet, a perspective I always try to position myself to see. Our species is allowed a color spectrum, I feel obligated to use it.

Of course I am asked about the specific artists that influence me. Aside from a heavy influence of Dada and some of the philosophical, academic mandates of Surrealism, I am most directly influenced by the 16th century painter Hieronymus Bosch and 20th Century painter Francis Bacon. Boche for his obsessive love of minutia, desire to create epic monuments. I am also drawn to his flights of fancy toward both the grotesque and beautiful. Bacon for his use of bright vivid colors and the deconstruction of the human form. My earliest true influence would have to be Emergency Broadcast Network. One of the first audio/visual artist collectives to create narratives from short video clips. Often pushing the human ability to process information by using dozens of different images per frame. I don’t know if this some what mundane question or the answers are really relevant to any artist in the end. While these people made an impact on me, so has everything else. I could just as easily say I’m artistically influenced by Ronald McDonald, the times I’ve gotten my nose broken, G.I. Joe, the talking frog beer commercial, Playing Gallaga, ¬†having two women in bed, running out of gas in the New Mexico desert, watching vagrants argue, riding the subway, a girlfriend dumping me, drinking buttermilk, chocolate pretzels, my first dog, alcohol poisoning, tattoos, model airplanes, the debate team, Saturday morning cartoons, my beautiful wife…

In fact there is a part of me that doubts the relevance of anything I’ve just wrote. I am conflicted in the thought that any explanation by any artist is irrelevant. What the viewer sees, what the viewer interprets is all that really matters. You see through your eyes, and that should be all that is important to you.

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