I’ll eat your shame and make you new
This drawing was originally inspired by a discussion between Lawrence Weschler, Errol Morris, Dr. Kanan Makiya, and W.J.T. Mitchell as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival. The subject was the iconography of war and how people live with and process the myriad tragic and frightening images that have become a part of our everyday experience. It occurred to me that these iconic images fail us, or more that we fail them, in that we continually allow new atrocities to bloom, that we ourselves author these great calamities and allow history to repeat itself, only with more technological savvy as each new conflict arises so that we are further removed from the killing and suffering than we were the last time. When I see images of depravity, of conflict, of humiliation and dehumanization such as the cell phone photos from Abu Ghraib, I want to believe that the images are powerful and profound enough to shock and awe us into action, into some kind of patient and benevolent revolution to actually make the world better, to accept and respect all the differences in cultures and histories and ideologies and live amicably. I’m either too optimistic or too naive. Probably both. We fight, maim, lie and kill in the name of empire, religion, dollars, just as we have and likely will continue. And many of us believe what we are told about the righteousness of our crimes and the trueness of our aim with little or no question because it is simply what we are told and that’s easy enough.
So the drawing at its inception was a collage of iconic images of war and struggle, a superimposed collection of calamity. It was my hope that the volume of sadness in this drawing would serve as a reminder for myself, an alarm to help me wake from my own apathy and disillusionment, that I need to let history inform my decisions so that I’m not simply stumbling and blind as I move through the world, so that if I am going to be a part of any change, it might be conscious and positive change.
2008 marker on paper 22×30
This is actually just a dirty old sketch. It might also be the first time I put down the damn pencil and picked up a marker. How many times in the course of history has the simple act of choosing a new tool proven to be life altering?
I grieve that grief can teach me nothing
Ralph Emerson provided the title for this piece. I didn’t actually get his permission to use it though, as he’s dead.
Grief permeates all aspects of a life. It has the power to transform life, to twist it up into unrecognizable tornadoes of emotion or break it down to its simplest parts – the solitary angst and pain – or to make it feel so complex as to be impossible to penetrate. This drawing for me is part of that paradox. In it’s simplest terms, it’s a piece of paper with marker scratchings on it. It is also a projection of images from my occasionally unbalanced brain under the influence of just trying to live.
The drawing is signed at both top and bottom, and is meant to be viewed from either direction. Looking at something from a different angle or perspective is related to combating grief, stepping outside ourselves in order to reinvigorate our vision.
2005 marker on paper 18×24
Opening the grave, wearing the mask, checking the watch
An allegorical piece from which sprang a geometrical pattern. I didn’t know it was coming, but then there it was. Because math is everywhere. The underlying grid also leaves its mark on I grieve…, the piece that immediately followed this one. They are both drawings I feel I taught myself to draw with. The complete version of this one has a lot of text on it, moving in all directions. Why I don’t have an image of the complete version says something about my level of professionalism in 2005.
I stole some imagery from Alice in Wonderland, a direct influence of my oldest daughter who was reading the story a short while before this drawing was made. She was so young at the time, but so brilliant, which is how she remains. A creative genius. And an inspiration to me in ways I am still coming to understand.
2005 marker on paper 18×24 sold
Byrne, baby, burn (for S. O., esq.) Sharpie on notepad
2004 marker on paper 12×16 sold
When I was 19 years old, shortly after moving to Chicago, I saw a photo of a man who had a corset fetish, which eventually led to his death. Over decades of ever intensifying corset wearing, slowly tightening and tightening higher up his body, he eventually crushed enough of the lower part of his lungs that he simply couldn’t take in enough oxygen to sustain himself. Seven years later I made this drawing and realized that the photo had stayed with me, quite vividly, though not entirely in my conscious thought.
For me, this piece is about obsession. As someone with fetishes of my own, there was a self-consuming sadness in the gentleman’s eyes that I felt could recognize, and a palpable degree of shame. Of course, I could have been projecting.
The corset itself has appeared in a few of my drawings. It’s an object rich with symbolism to me, representing hidden restraint and akin to self flagellation. I also just like how they look, the long laces crossing back and forth, the stitches, the way it shapes the body. It’s a strange piece of clothing, and I am intrigued by the fact that wearing one was once so commonplace.
2004 marker on paper 12×16
Fish on unicycles (aptly named, yes?)
Back in 2004 I spent a little time at the Shedd Aquarium and rather enjoyed how alien all those fish appeared, drifting in their dimly lit tanks, some of which stood several feet above me. If you’ve been to the Shedd, especially before their last couple of renovations, you know what a magical place it was. I came home that night and decided to start drawing some fish. Then they ended up riding unicycles. This particular drawing was in my first show, way back when, and sold on opening night. The prints sold too. Every fish drawing I’ve made since has sold. Lesson: people like fish that know how to ride unicycles.
2004 marker on paper 12×16 sold
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