Artist Statement

Comic Surrealism

In my work I combine many of the tenants of early twentieth-century Surrealist thought, such as automatism and free expression, and integrate psychological, aesthetic, and ethical issues related to humor.  I am interested in the concepts of both physical and mental play, disengagements from both the seriousness of life, and the discontent present in much of the fine arts. I have arrived at many of my conclusions through the psychoanalyses of my actions, with the aid of the knowledge of my personal history. This new investigation into Surrealism has its basis in the psychology of the artist, and its relation to cynicism in mass culture. This interaction results in a new kitsch of the absurd and ridiculous, present in contemporary cultural icons. To illustrate my research, I have utilized multimedia sculpture, video, photography, as well as performance art. In creating my artworks, I approach the media I use on an individual basis, I firmly believe the media should fit the subject matter, not the opposite; this is why I choose to work with a wide variety of media.

We live in a society of online cat videos and The Daily Show, humor has become the vernacular language of twenty-first century western society. The art I make, on its most basic level, is entertainment; this is the vehicle that can be used to communicate deep or tragic ideas with the posture of a pratfall. I wish to figuratively hold up a mirror to society with the words, “I’m with stupid,” painted on it.

I am interested in the cute, the absurd, and the ridiculousness of objects and situations. Much of this inspiration and aesthetic comes from my childhood exposure to the work of Jim Henson and his contemporaries. Apparent nonsense with underlying discourse can be a reflection of childhood obsessions and the child-like obsessions of adulthood; I believe this regression is ingrained into the human experience. Like Henson, my work aims to create a cycle of sophistication and de-sophistication. Nonsense bears the stamp of paradox. The two sides of the paradox are order and disorder. Order is generally created by language, disorder by reference. The essential factor in my work is their peculiar interplay.

Like the early twentieth century Surrealists, I arrive at the conceptions for my artworks through a seemingly random lightning strike of visual inspiration, and the mental interplay that follows.  I rarely, if ever begin with a focus on meaning or concept. This automatism is later augmented through a system psychoanalysis to aid in the formation of aesthetics and understanding of meaning and/or influence. This interplay is a form of ‘free expression.’  The Surrealists found beauty in that dreams and daydreams are unique, and specific to the individual. They saw the dream world to be the intersection of the subconscious and its relationship to the external world. The imagery was born first, almost through chance, and then the search for meaning through the analysis of the imagery using the artist’s psyche as a codex came second. Therefore, inherent meaning in Surrealism may be considered transient. Once the work is presented to an audience, it becomes a dream to be consumed by the viewer. The viewer brings with them their own set of associations and experiences in the analysis of the imagery, that dream may become one of their own. The meaning of a work will always evolve, it is completely dependent on its current context in time, and the personal associations of the viewer. The only part of the work that is semi-permanent is the moment of inspiration in which it was realized by the artist, and perhaps the image itself.

Humor is of the upmost importance in my work. For me to fully understand why this is so, I have been forced to examine my subconscious motives. Mark Twain once remarked, “The secret source of humor is not joy, but sorrow.” I, like many others, often feel disenfranchised in love. Humor is a shield, a false façade to gain acceptance in society; it is part of a self-image we create as a coping mechanism. Humorous self-deprecation is cathartic, because of the way in which we can air our inner desires to the rest of society, and have them met with open arms and relatability instead of discomfort. Humor is also one of the oldest forms of political and societal discourse. Since the time of the Ancient Greeks, humor has been used as a tool to challenge societal norms, and oppression. Even today, it can be argued, the most biting social commentary comes from comedians rather than philosophers. In many ways the present day comedian has taken up the mantle of the philosopher of antiquity.

Humor is the main demarcation between Comic Surrealism and the rest of the Surrealist genre. Many of the early Surrealists were preoccupied with violence and paranoia; some art historians have concluded this is probably due to their reaction to World War I. My generation has no great war; we only have a media disseminated war, which exists in the time slot between Americas Funniest Home Videos and the latest, soon-to-be canceled sitcom. A basic palatability is important in my artistic practice. Art does not need to be a transparent vehicle for our discontents. And frankly, I have trouble understanding why most everyone else in the art world is so serious all the time. I am of the conviction that art should serve a greater ethical purpose, a lifting of the human spirit, as well as of the intellectual mind. Tragedy and discontent foster an attitude toward life based on negative emotions, and comedy fosters a non-emotional, playful attitude. If objects or performances can have a direct positive effect on the viewer, I believe then that they should have a responsibility to do so.

In art and life seriousness is the norm, non-serious play is a luxury.

We are serious and humor is a disengagement. Comic Surrealism is interested in the psychological betterment of both its artists and its viewers. It is a catharsis in both action and product. However, it operates on a paradox, its practitioners must be completely serious about not being serious.

 

Major Influences: Ken Burnette, Sigmund Freud, Duane Hanson, Jim Henson, Phish, Richard Jackson, Jeff Koons, Harmony Korine, Randy Newman, John Morreall, Dominic Wilcox, Jerome Foster Wolfson