My artwork is a visual representation of my research into defining a new artistic genre, Comic Surrealism. 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 I find present in much of the fine arts. This revisit to surrealist thought 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.
We live in a society of 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 vehicle 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 “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 content can be a reflection of childhood obsessions and the child-like obsessions of adulthood. I believe this regression is engrained into the human experience. Like Henson, my work aims to create a cycle of sophistication and de-sophistication. I firmly believe that a good joke can do more for the soul than viewing a Picasso; and therefore I believe cat videos may be the new avant garde.
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 begin with a focus on meaning or concept. This automatism is later augmented through a system of professional cognitive therapy and my own self-guided psychoanalysis to aid in the formation of aesthetics and understanding of meaning and/or influence. This interplay is a form of ‘free expression.’ Dreams and daydreams are unique, different to every individual, this is where the Surrealists found beauty in their genre.
Humor is of the upmost importance in my work. For me to fully understand why this is, 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, a 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 the main demarcation between Comic Surrealism and the rest of the Surrealist genre. Early Surrealists such as Magritte and Dali did used humorous paradox’s in their works,however most surrealist images were preoccupied with violence and paranoia; some 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 exist 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. Art should serve a greater ethical purpose, a lifting of the human spirit, as well as the intellectual mind. Tragedy fosters 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 have a responsibility to do so.
In art and life seriousness is the norm, non-serious play is a luxury.
We are serious, humor is a disengagement. Comic Surrealism is interested in the psychological betterment of both its artist’s 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.