Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I was a Teen-age Surrealist

I found old art from my youthful days in a garden shed on my parents' property that I had once used as a playhouse. The shed was full of not only my own student art but some of my mother's earlier art as well. All of the art had been carelessly stashed in there and subjected to bitter cold, summer heat, moisture, insects, and mice. Even so, this piece remained in surprisingly good shape. 

"Horror House," which is not the original title since I've long forgotten what that was, is dated December 7, 1968 and signed with my original name. It depicts a house front, or rather four different stories of different house fronts, each of which has surrealistic features. I find it fascinating that even when I was just a young thing I did architectural fantasy and house drawings. The date shows that I was 15 years old when I painted this. 

I still remember clearly what was in this painting. Starting from the top, white level: A cross-shaped telephone pole with "INRI" at the intersection. That is the inscription (I.N.R.I. stands for Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum, or "Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews") on the Cross of Christ. Moving to the right are three elemental faces: Fire, with a cigarette, Earth, and Water, spitting out a cloudy wave. The small window to the right shows a baseball player character I was writing about at that time. 

The next level, in orange-yellow, shows a woman with a heart-shaped mask over her face, shaking out a rug from the window. The rug is actually a tiny piece of rustic, colorful weaving that I attached to the painting, making it multi-media. The rug is being sucked in by the Intestine Head Monster from the lower story. Moving right, you see a crazy hand stabbing the house with a dagger.

The next lower level, light green walls, shows the elemental Air Face extruding the Intestine Head Monster. There are three windows on this floor and each one shows the typical work of a Pop Artist of that era. The pin-up girl is from Tom Wesselmann, the blue and black road picture by Allen D'Arcangelo, and the "Eat/Die" picture is from Robert Indiana. I guess I was into Pop Art in those days, or maybe was making fun of it. A trash can sits on the porch roof, done in non-perspective. 

The ground floor with the porch shows a mysterious man at the door who was a character from my Noantri writing of the time (yes, I was creating the Noantri world even back then). A Hunchback, not from Notre Dame, sits on the porch with a dancing cat. Seen through the big window is a frowsy woman in a red dress and a sleazy guy with a drink and a cigarette. The woman appears to be yelling at the man. In another bit of multi-media, I covered part of the window with a tiny piece of real metal screen. Part of the lower left corner has been gnawed away by mice.

"Horror House" is gouache (opaque watercolor) on illustration board, covered over with a protective acrylic spray. That's how it survived the bad conditions in the shed. It's 20" x 30" and was painted at the same time as I was making electronic music on the Buchla synthesizer, fall 1968. Click on the image for a larger version.


emikk said...

Is this a sample of your checkered past?

Pyracantha said...

Well Emikk since I played chess in those days, it's rather like a sample of my "chessered" past.