Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I Am the Egg, Man.

Soft Boiled

As usual, this group of works had it’s birth in one place, and it’s realization somewhere else. I Am the Egg, Man, visually, was a fairly seamless transition from Flesh,Bone, and Full of Nasty. White and grey Chiclet-esque forms that came together to make a ghostly mouth full of teeth- all of the sudden, they come apart as if to grow legs and step right out of the “gums.” The flat tops that used to chomp have now inflated slightly to make an elliptical egg form. The legs remain, as if they were there all along. I quickly realized what these forms were, and assigned a label quickly, as I scribbled on a piece of paper in my large sketch book- “Humpty Dumpty is a Motherfucker.” I didn’t really know what that meant at the time, but I also didn’t care. I just knew that it was the change I was making, and that it had to start immediately. Ironically, it wouldn’t be until later that this group of works would have a lot more in common with The Packrat’s Dynasty than the previously mentioned body of works.
Here & There
            At the beginning, when I would try to explain these paintings, I could only describe them as their most obvious function- a retelling of what I’d called the most underwhelming tragedy in the history of Western story telling, Humpty Dumpty. For me, this was a bit of a change of pace. The last time I had used any real comedic violence or mutilation in a group of works was during my MFA thesis, How to Kill Your Imaginary Friends. The main difference, in my view: I’d gone from creating new characters that I would torture and destroy myself, to now almost trying to catch the destruction in the act; the peak of Humpty’s worst moment. The moment before “all the king’s horses and all the king’s” just kind of cut their losses and called it quits without even a shred of evidence that they would try to fix the poor bastard. When it was all said and done, though, I had the “what” all figured out, but not the “why.” As usual, I had to become emotionally detached and away from the paintings to figure out what they really meant to me.

As time passed, and I put more of my creative efforts into The #GeppettoProject, I forgot about the egg paintings. And then, all of the sudden, while going through some old sketches, the truth dawned on me. As I’ve said in the past, my artwork has always been reflective (and response to) of my surroundings, and the changes of the scape to my day-to-day. These paintings came at a time when my paternal grandfather began to quickly deteriorate in health, and ultimately passed away. Don’t get me wrong- this was not a group of paintings that were an attempt to cling on to the man, wondering why he was taken away from us so soon. The man was nothing, if not a hardened survivor. To boot, he also nearly made it to his 96th birthday; hardly an issue of “not enough time” on this Earth. That said, I’m not going to tell a lie and say that this wasn’t about mourning. It was just a different kind. My grandfather was a difficult man. His story, while entertaining and funny coming from the mouths of my father and his cousins, is one filled with tragedy, drama, and spiritual difficulty. Of all of the stories of his antics, the negative things he’d done, the fights he had with my father, and even the heroics he performed during the war (which all read like a great piece of fiction, by the way), one strange detail always stuck out in my mind. His sister (who died not too long before he did) once told me “The thing about your grandfather is that he’s not who he was. He changed when he came back from the war. He brought back something dark with him.”  It was remembering this conversation that I realized, my relationship with my grandfather had a lot more in common with Humpty Dumpty than I’d known.
As I mentioned before, this was not a group of paintings mourning the death of this man. As it turned out, they were mourning the life of a man that I never got to know; a man he never had much of a chance to be. There may not have been a way to put the man I knew back together. Even so, I can’t help but keep thinking that broken as he may have gotten, and fragmented as he could be, it wasn’t the end to his story. There was no waiting for “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men”- just the will to keep trying to stand up on one’s own two feet. Damaged isn’t dead. Mean isn’t evil. Hard isn’t impossible. These paintings, which started as symbols and pictures of death, have grown to become a reminder to push on, even if things feel like they’re at their worst. If you’ve got some breaking eggs, try the best you can to have an omelet. 

By the Sum of It's Parts 

Swept Up