Picking Up Steam in 2012

As a 26 year-old (a teacher at that), I find it odd to realize that the children I teach have never known life without computers or cellphones. I am not "addicted" to technology myself-- I like to use it for good and otherwise have no interest in allowing it to use me or overwhelm my time-- and so people always seem a bit too "wired" to me these days. I have never believed this to be a particularly romantic or poetic age and, I must confess, life in the suburbs can often leave a well-read young person feeling as if something is missing. Perhaps this is why many in my age group are so enamored of video games and fantasy art or literature. It bespeaks a yearning for the epic, and often the inability to find that quality in one's daily life, and combines escapism and technology in an accessible package. Moreover, fantasy and science-fiction can open up possibilities to imaginative thinkers; for instance, I cannot help but admire the creative, impeccably-rendered concept art, animation, fantasy illustrations, et cetera that are being produced these days.

On the other hand, there is a commercial sensationalism to the not-quite-underground popularity of these genres as well. . . when I attempt to look beyond their glossy aesthetics and adventures, sometimes I find meaning and often I do not. I wanted to make paintings that alluded to the high-tech/fantasy trend without being plastic or commercial themselves. . . and with it, I wanted to think more about the relationship between man and machine. With the modern fascination for the robotic garb of certain pop singers and their uncanny allusions to the Maschinenmensch of the film Metropolis in mind, I turned to a Steampunk-inspired #Draw365 piece, and as promised in my final post of the year, I spent the 1st morning of January painting, namely, finishing Clockwork Woman [above]. (In it, I also added a vague sense of Art Deco mystery and fantasy that hints to my painting The Lady and the Sea Monster.)

I like the optimism and 19th-Century modern style of Steampunk, the speculative nature of alternate histories-- the lover of all things appearing to be from the steam-powered age seems to embrace technology and also provide a remedy through classical design and whimsy, a rebellion against the coldness technology can create. Steampunk objects and outfits have their technological elements, but they do not simply toss aside history or human culture or the love of beautiful ornamentation. On the other hand, there are still many nuances, both positive and negative, behind the idea of combining "Clockwork" with a person, and the Industrial Revolution in general has had its conflicting benefits and setbacks, particularly with respect to the environment. I am not certain as to how many pieces this series will encompass, but I have planned a trio of works so far. The next two pieces [above, the newly-primed canvases, flanked by Burlesque Beauty and Emerging Red] will have strong themes of "searching" and "exploration" behind them, but as in this first painting, both suggest the mechanical and the human, and rely on human expressiveness for the core of their impact.

In other notes, I am very proud to say that some of my Mother's artwork is being featured on the Huntsville Art Blog. Click here to view the full feature.

No comments