"The price which man had to pay for his culture and civilization was the severing of this bond which had to be torn to give him his specific freedom of will. But our infinite longing for paradise lost is nothing else than a half-conscious yearning for our ruptured ties.”I enjoy using Adobe Photoshop's basic tools to tweak JPEGs that I've collected online. Occasionally, my tinkering provides inspiration for a drawing. More often, the crude experiments are saved to my hard-drive on the off chance that I might later find some happy use for them.
-Konrad Lorenz, King Solomon’s Ring
A couple of weeks ago, while pondering a quick collage of a young man wearing a howling-wolf-with-moon t-shirt, I realized that my Photoshop amusements more plainly evidence the humor implicit in the ideas and questions that preoccupy me. Very few people comment on this aspect of my drawings and paintings; if they do, they assume the humor is unintended.
I believe this is partly a function of the artist's character informing the viewer's read of his or her art; people who don't know me well usually describe me as earnest, pensive, and not a kidder. Compounding matters, the pictures' principal mediums, watercolor and gouache, are considered the province of the Sunday painter. For many viewers, then, the drawings and paintings are either too heady or too precious.
By contrast, the Photoshop works are unpretentious "one-noters" that demand little from the viewer, yet still speak to some of the same existential questions that my works on paper do. What is our relationship to the rest of the animal kingdom and to nature, at large? How does our cataloging impulse inform those relationships? How do we reconcile imaginative myth with science, or our base animal with our spiritual aspirations?
But the Photoshop works also ask questions that my drawings and paintings do not. In what ways have we turned other species into commodities? What are the contemporary totem animals for an increasingly urban humanity? More profoundly, is the contemporary human condition one of contradiction? Although self-consciousness, advanced socialization, and technology make us exceptional and allow for the creation of culture and civilization, is it not those very developments that our inner animal rages against? Might many of our contemporary behaviors be analogues of the displacement exhibited by animals living in zoo enclosures?
Because these are related, but different questions and because the Photoshop works are more playful and wry, I've decided to present them on Hungry Hyaena. The first picture in my "Scavenged Image (Remixed)" series will follow this post. I will add more regularly.
Note: A thank you to Joy Garnett; her ongoing "Found Art/Unmonumental" series, posted on her long-running and consistently excellent blog, NEWSGrist, is, in some respects, cousin to this project.