Pseudo-Science, Birds and Lessons on How to Disappear

Pseudo-Science

Making art can be therapy, hard work, a distraction and an escape. The radical changes in how we must now live our lives since the onset of the Corona Virus epidemic have been unprecedented and without a doubt those changes have affected how we make art. For many artists, imagery of face masks, hand sanitzer, gloves and other items are being featured in their work. I find the limitations around human interaction that we must now accept just as difficult as the fact that we must protect ourselves by making use of face masks and other items. But I don’t feel inclined to memorialize or reference those items in my work.

Nevertheless, the impact of so many lives lost, the fear that surrounds going out into the world and the many restrictions that have now become the norm all impact us in ways that aren’t necessarily conscious or under our control. Without a direct plan, I found myself playing with some of the underlying themes without making a direct reference to the specifics of life now. Which is how this series “Pseudo-Science” came to be.

Two items found their way into this work: one a card game called “Flinch” which was first marketed in 1901 and features a custom deck with 150 cards. Each card has only a very elegant number but no suits such as clubs, hearts or spades and to my eye evokes something mysterious.

The second was a book on Phrenology from the 19th century that I’ve had for several years. Phrenology was the pseudo-scientific study of the skull which was supposed to reveal important aspects of character and personality. It grew out of a desire to understand the mind and in some respects was the precursor to the field of psychology.

Making art can certainly be a distraction which I find very helpful. It can also be a form of play. For me, the beauty of doing mixed media work allows the artist the liberty of playing with many disparate materials. Despite the fact that these are heavy and difficult times, if there is a way to convey even a little bit of humor, it confirms the therapeutic benefit of art.

“Center of the Forehead”
2020.  10”x8”
mixed media: acrylic paint, found 19th century portrait, found paper, “Flinch” card on found envelope, piece of found French receipt, paint on paper and oil paint on wood panel

“Jaded Muscles”
2020. 10”x10”
mixed media: acrylic paint, assorted found papers, found 19th century photo, “Flinch” card, ad for Absorbine, paint on paper and oil paint on wood panel

“Flinch”
2020.  10”x10”
mixed media: acrylic paint, assorted found papers, found Russian card, “Flinch” card on found envelope, paint on paper, found photograph and oil paint on wood panel

“Phrenology”
2020.  8”x8”
mixed media: acrylic paint, assorted found papers, found bottle cap, paint on paper, image from phrenology text, “Flinch” card and oil paint on wood panel

“Numbers Game”
2020.  8”x8”
mixed media: acrylic paint, assorted found papers, found 19th century photo, “Flinch” card, paint on paper and oil paint on wood panel


Birds

In challenging and not so challenging times, birds easily hold fascination and delight.  A dull day can be lit up, even momentarily, by the presence of a bird in flight, or the sudden flash of color hidden beneath soft brown wing feathers.  In these painful times, the musicality of birdsong can lift us from our worries and remind us of the beauty and abundance of nature.  Walking on a daily basis during the pandemic, nothing can give as much pleasure as birds, whether flying in undulating flocks, nestled in on a bush or diving and bobbing in the water with a fish in its beak.  Utilizing the bird imagery here has brought me a sense of comfort and pleasure which has been so therapeutic.  I have been reminded of the importance of play, of color and of how birds connect us to something beyond our cares that is so alive and vibrant.  How lucky we are to only have to look outside our windows and ourselves and feel deeply that despite everything, beauty that persists.

Gambling Birds
2020.  10”x10”
mixed media: acrylic paint, found facsimile from card game, paper packing material, pencil, colored pencil and paint on paper, found bird images, sheet music and oil paint on wood panel

“Nesting Instincts”
2020.  10”x10”
mixed media: acrylic paint, found bird images, found photo, sheet music, paper packing material, pencil, colored pencil and paint on paper and oil paint on wood panel


Self-Portrait / Random

“Lessons in How to Disappear”
2020.  8”x8”
mixed media: acrylic paint, assorted found papers, found 19th century photographs, pencil and colored pencil on paper, sheetrock tape, piece of metric tape and oil paint on wood panel

“The Law of Diminishing Returns”
2020.  8”x8”
mixed media: acrylic paint, assorted found papers, pencil on paper, sheetrock tape, bias tape, washers, found 19th century photographs and oil paint on wood panel

“What If?”
2020.  21”x18”
mixed media: acrylic paint, industrial filter, assorted found papers, pencil and colored pencil on paper, remnant of atlas and oil paint on wood panels