Okay, here is a major piece from 2000. It is large at 60 × 72. And I very deliberately placed it here in my gallery right next to and following “Jerk in a Field” so that you can see the similarities. The central arrangement is almost exactly the same with its “up/ down” configuration. The figure and ferris wheel between the two paintings are almost interchangeable.
But – this painting here is very very intuitive. I do not know exactly where it came from and I think there is a danger in trying to overly describe it because I cannot. All I can do is offer certain fragments of thought. It can easily be viewed as satirical humor in that the painting places this overwhelming and dangerous natural event into a grouping of more masturbatory but also spinning distractions. And when I made this, tornadoes had not yet become an object of marketing: Extreme tourism and serialized storm chaser shows had yet to happen. And, of course, the folks here seem totally unconcerned with what is taking place because maybe it is just another ride. On the flip side, who doesn’t walk through a carnival at dusk without imagining that there is a secret, dark, and candied destination behind all of the extreme stimuli? Read Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury and tell me that he’s not tripping on exactly that. There is a time of day/ night when the sky becomes part of the carnival. It just happens. And there is this kind of monstrous fuel or longing on the backside of it as if the whole event was waiting for that exactly teasing time of day. This notion is in the works to fuel more adventurous work over here, all things being equal. We’ll see.
I can certainly address the composition though. Click through the “facets” here and see the first painting, Rides, to get a sense of how it birthed this later, “widescreen” version. And look at how symmetrical it is – every side element cascades down to focus back on that original, “up/ down” dynamic between twister and ferris wheel/ good and evil, what have you. For instance, the ride on the left of the canvas is curved downward from its entry just like the arrangement of tree on the right. And below that are what might look like opening gates to a more scrutinous inspector: a kind of arched wall on the left and a green diagonal barrier more hidden but present under the bottom right of the ferris wheel. Without going into excessive detail, note the use of more verticals to the sides and more horizontals toward the base of things at center. The figures too diminish in size as space identifiers as they proceed into the environment but very little of this arranging was planned. One thing I did get crap for was putting a still life at the lower left. But I wanted something immediate for the viewer. Is it over the top? Absolutely and deliberately. I’m sure too that without it the large figure on the right would not have shown up for balance.
Be sure to check out the facets on this one as I am going to post some great sources of inspiration.
What I like about this piece is its lack of modernist frontalism. Most figurative art suffers from that malady. Here there is convincing figural movement, complex perspectival and atmospheric depth, and multiple visual surprises. Anti-flat! Roll over, Greenberg!
lol!! You’re very kind. And I do have very strong feelings about what you call “modernist frontalism” in that its supposed honesty, at least to me, has been very much appropriated and abused to legitimize what is actually an inability to explore space. My own opinion, of course, but I have had my fill of accessible, pseudo folk-art and diagrammatic paintings. I see a lot of it in the lowbrow movement and alright-already tatoo thing going on. That said, I took my own stab at such a thing and will post that soon for sure.
This is one of my favorite tornado paintings of yours. There could be a lot of symbology in it too, maybe unintentional. The innocence, lack of awareness, the distractions, and the tornado and its power sneaking in disguised as another ride, its all so entertaining. I like the still life. Maybe, if anything, the Styrofoam cup is a little large for the foreground, or too light and distracts the eye just a little, or blocks the view a bit much from the midground, just slightly, if any. But if it does at all, it really doesn’t matter, because the painting is so damn good!
Again, thank you for the elaboration. I get lost entirely with the beautiful lush painting technique. Somehow, I can miss most of the details and the significance. It is like…I am waking up in the morning from a long sleep. It takes my eyes time to focus and time to make my way around the canvas. I was so captivated by the ferris wheel, the beautiful detailings, then the colorations of the sky, and then the foreboding tornado. I really overlooked all the detail in the shadows for a really look time. I thought the still life was central to the story and created point of perspective and the story. It engaged me “as if” it was the point where “I” was sitting and viewing the carnival and then the ensuing drama unfolding. Without it, it would have been an entirely different story and meaning for me. Kudos, wonderful work.
Thanks! That was very much the point. Without that still life it falls more into a kind of stereotypical kind of depiction. I wanted to cram two kinds of storytelling into this piece whether it lead to something awkward or not and give us that “bridge” into weirdness.
Right. Instead of my standing outside as the voyeur I became involved as a participant. I could actually here the carnival music playing. Once I engaged sitting and smelling that hot dog and hot coffee. (that WAS coffee in that cup I was smelling, right? ;-)
I really “envy” your work. It is everything I was taught in school about how to design, think, analyze and conceptualize, but I have not yet been able to apply it to painting. (only developing commercial design). I admire the facilitation you have to not only design the work but to follow through in execution of excellent painting. Not only do I find inspiration in your work, but I find some hope that maybe one day I can have COURAGE to at least try to undertake painting that is well planned conceptually & well executed in painting.
No matter when you try it your first one will always be a little funky/ awkward and perhaps successful by accident. I find that I have to jump off the cliff from time to time. I’m terrified of doing it in real life so I do it in art. Try something crazy! The best way is to have 4 or 5 paintings going at once so when three of them fail you still have something good. :)
I find this painting beautiful and haunting. The evening light contrasting with the coming dark storm and the carnival lights. Very cinematic.
Thanks! I love walking around carnivals at this time of day for just those reasons. :)
John – you have such an informed eye and the passion in your brush to transmit that. I really love this work.