I think I said this before, but Run Big Monkey hangs on the one large wall we have in the house. There is in fact a newer painting that is 1″ longer than Monkey in each dimension, making it the current largest Jim Public piece; but, as I finished the larger painting after Monkey had already claimed the one spot where it would fit, it currently resides against a wall out in the studio. I have four more large paintings like these coming up in my studio queue: where am I going to put them? I’ll worry about making them first.
Monkey has good company in Skull Platter, 2004, by Sean Slattery. JPS–shown above reclining with a noisy toy army tank–referred for a while to Sean’s painting as Ba Ba Boo Boo during the early part of this 3rd year. We don’t know how he came up with that nickname, but we haven’t heard it in several months. During that time he had mixed feelings about Ba Ba Boo Boo, some days laughing at his silliness, other days recoiling from him with a furrowed toddler brow. Now that JPS has a noisy toy army tank, perhaps no longer feels threatened.
Here is Jormungand Releases His Tail in its current natural habitat, which is directly in my line of vision if I look across the room from my side of the bed. I give it a good look for a few moments maybe every other day; I miss it much of the time because I take off my glasses and switch off the light when I retire for the evening, my eyes settled into the bliss of blurry darkness that is so welcome after a day of constant seeing. When one’s job is to make stuff look good one is always seeking more good-looking stuff to learn from and, through the act of sustained looking, trying to figure out how the good-looking stuff looks so good, in case one can use it in the studio. So, nighttime for the bespectacled artist is a welcome respite, and as much as I admire Jormungand, it’s daily absence from my visual field for hours at a time renews my fondness for it.
It is said that when selling artwork online one should take nice photos showing the art in a pleasing environment, such as you would find in the pages of home design magazines like Dwell or Architectural Digest. Looking at photos and ads in these mags, I get the feeling that the usually fluffy decorative paintings, which occupy about 1/10th of the photograph’s space, are worth a similar fraction of the tastefully designed room’s value. Want to make a $15,000 painting look like it’s worth its price? Take a picture of it in a mouth-watering, $150,000 interior.
(One quick note: the painting there on the left is a Will Cotton, who is a living master of fluffy decorative painting. I saw one of his oils at the Dallas Art Fair last spring and the gorgeousness of the paintwork made me cry; artists like him keep artists like me away from representational oil painting. I have nothing to add to what he’s able to do with the brush.)
Another type of luxury interior shot–usually more about furniture than art–features young adults lounging on a couch or the floor, sporting comfy footwear, engaged pleasantly in a book or laptop, or smiling contentedly at each other. The woman should be holding a ceramic coffee mug. And if a child is playing quietly nearby, you have a masterpiece.
Ahhhh, isn’t that the life? Cleanliness and order, tranquility and contentment, good lines, feng shui.
I am a skeptic, which means I ask for evidence to support a claim, and which I guess makes me a realist, too. I like for my ideas and values to correspond as closely as possible to the actual state of things outside of my body, in the objective world we all presumably inhabit. And I find little evidence in my experience that supports the existence of the kind of lifestyle enjoyed by the characters in these photos. They remind me of sitcoms in which one of the characters has had her baby, but the story must continue, so when new mommy needs to act like the grown-up that her audience is accustomed to, she just lays baby down for a nap or puts baby in a playpen where baby coos softly, or not at all, and lets mommy do her thing. Photography like this, and really all photography in most every magazine, drives me nuts.
So, in my ongoing effort to brush aside delusion and fantasy and replace them with a more familiar reality, I want to share my installation shot of God’s Covenant at the Event Horizon, in the condition in which it actually exists.
Our furniture is used and well-worn; our bed is unmade; our laundry is underfoot; our carpet is characteristic of a rental home. Our kids do not play quietly or alone. JPS had the fun idea of bringing all his Batman toys onto mom and dad’s bed, and he only played with them solo because he saw that a camera was pointed at him. He has the reputation around here for lying on his back, absentmindedly spinning our recliner with his feet, if no one will play with him. His mom and I encourage independence in our kids, but the fact is that unless a friend or cousin is in the house, they are either playing with us or engaged with some kind of electronic screen.
If JPW were to sit on the floor with a ceramic coffee mug, it would probably end up shattered on the tile and certainly end up overturned on her clothes, few of which are white, because she is the mother of young children and knows better. We read mostly on the toilet, which is the only place where we can occasionally find peace. If we were to snuggle up on the couch with the laptop, we would be assailed by the children, who cannot bear to be excluded from gazing at a monitor.
I find life an insane, unwieldy, improvised mess. We humans are animals, and serenity, while longed for (as millions of magazine photos show us again and again), is rarely achieved, and short-lived. And I wouldn’t want it any other way. Life is an adventure that is not to be tamed by the right couch or composite flooring material. And certainly not by art. I think the best art and photography embrace and celebrate the insanity around us, which is what my photo of a painting in a home with a child is going for.