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THE JOKE’S ON YOU: Art, Authorship and Humor

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Recently, my work began to integrate the ideas of global politics and global economies.  Especially relative to China, India and the United States, the issues are deep and complicated.  Even though I attempt to approach things with humor, this is more of humor in a dark place.  While sifting through all of the reading, imagery, documentaries and discussions about the various issues surrounding such broad topics, it is important to me to maintain the integrity of the symbols I work with by manipulating their presentation in order to effectively communicate what it is I am trying to say with my thesis.  I created the work, “The United States of China, Made In India.”  It is a 5ft.x7ft. silk area rug, conceived by an artist (me) in the United States of America.  The idea made into a file and sent to the rug making company in India.  China has a profound effect both the Indian and the American economies and their politics.  It is almost as if one cannot exist without the other and they are all intertwined into this pseudo-incest type of relationship.  This is my response.

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It is entirely possible I may just grind it all down into millet and feed it to pigeons when I am done.  I wouldn’t want to poison those shiny grey birds.  Maybe, just maybe, they will digest all of the important information and shit it out on the masses.  As the shit hits, the individual sits…thinking, luck has struck.  When in fact the reality of the fact is that it is just shit…

Bits of knowledge, mixed in with sweat, sadness and exploitation.  The ideas of desperation and retaliation for the economic and political flow so strong a single soul cannot stop it.  I read with my pulse pounding in my hand, my heart in someone else’s throat as I shout silently into the still air. I write so large in hopes it will be seen. The words are so important, but, what if…what if you cannot read them, what if I cannot speak them.  The languages that separate us, the politics that barricade us, the currency that divides us from saving those who cannot save themselves only to realize I am lost.  Who am I to say anyone needs to be saved?!  I feel completely depraved.

I am part of this cycle.  I contribute to human enslavement.  I am committed to the exploitation of others.  I have experienced exploitation and fully understand the control it embodies. It contains the essence of promise.  The reality is ones identity is stripped and replaced by object.  The human becomes the object. My experience comes from the United States.  Though it is relative it is not comparable.  People are truly suffering…I cannot even begin to mediate the magnitude of these issues…I need a case of tissues.

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I grew up in a college town in the 1980’s this could be the seed of my obsession with mass production and pop culture; surrounded by psychologists and organized religion.  This has made for an interesting juxtaposition and began informing my work early on.

The exploratory convergence of sculpture, mixed media and painting has driven my current work, which is informed by POP Art practices, Abstract Expressionism and a concern with humor, language and artifice.  My curiosity initially stems from the introduction of philosophical and creative discourse relative to my work, which takes the form of two-dimensional and three-dimensional sculpture.  Some of these works are deep with intent and meaning, while others are meant to be funny. Yet all of it is supposed to be engaging and reflective of my canon.

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I’m sitting in my car in the library parking lot. I am procrastinating by listening to NPR as they report a Picasso selling for some copious amount of money.  They went on to discuss how wrong or right it is, what the markets are, how the different houses practice, with listeners calling in with their two cents. All the while I am thinking…I really need to get this summary done.  I am so ethnocentric; this guy with a southern accent calls in and I immediately think he is just some white asshole with leftover plantation money.  Now I’m thinking, I really need to get a helium tank, punch holes in Trace, take photos of Fuck Me, and make sense of my thesis outline (thought in a thought— FUCK!!).  I should really check the shipping on the two “G’s” I’m expecting from China, upload photos to my blog, read, read, read again, wait…is the rug I ordered from India actually real (?), update my bibliography, and then I see a bag of chips in my cup holder, it’s my birthday soon…I should get a cupcake later.  I begin to eat the chips, the crunch is just enough to distract me from my thoughts and I hear $179 million dollars, it is a new auction record.  Naked Ladies sell. What the hell am I doing exploring language, intellectualizing humor, when at the end of the day Naked Ladies sell?

Pardon me, Nude women. Images of nude ladies have always been a favorite of mine; when I was a kid I would sneak up to the attic and look at my mother’s art books.  It is ironic; Picasso treated women like objects and ultimately became one himself.  It isn’t even about the artwork anymore, the discourse…it is about investment, it is about money, it is about the name—not the content.

Just days before this report, I watched an interview with a 99-year-old philosopher.  She essentially said American consumerism is a direct result of our feelings of dehumanization, and buying objects is our way of compensating.  Essentially my education is the only way I can compensate for my own dehumanization.  Hell, it beats a set of sheets. My art is nothing like it was prior to the program and has become everything I never imagined.  This may be the best $60,000.00 I ever borrowed.  I believe the work I am developing has more meaning, it is richer, deeper.  Humor can be a serious business.  My attempt in my current works is to speak without sound, putting things in an order that conjures up the impulse of laughter in viewers.  The object becomes the performer; the position of the artist becomes secondary.  This is similar to the relationship between the Muppet and the puppeteer.

I came into this semester creatively clueless as to what type of work I would generate.  I knew it would have something to do with language. Initially the language I chose to work with is profanity, then like anything it began to morph.  Language has so many nuances, double-meanings and cultural differences.  I read about artists like Wayne White, Matt Keegan, Beth Campbell, Mike Kelley, Marcel Broodthaers, David Robbins, Ai Wei Wei, Banksy,  Andy Warhol, etc., relative to their use of language. I engaged with people from different cultures in an attempt to make my experience as a human richer and more compassionate.  I am more aware of the communicative power an object offers to language within art.  I began to generate studies about words, contexts and objects.  My Mentor suggested I massage out my ideas into something more substantial and not to work so impulsively.  This has led to a different type of process.  One I am not entirely comfortable with yet.  Even the finances are different—paint is cheaper than a custom rug. Logistically the leap has been long and I am pretty sure I haven’t even landed yet.

I came into the program primarily a painter and a photographer…now I am so far beyond that.  I have hit a wall and at the same time I have scaled it and crushed it…only to find another wall right in front of me.  There is so much to come in my career, and yet so much has already happened. During this process I have found the real voice within my work.  It is exhilarating to be around people who take my work seriously.  The community I was involved in prior to program was absolutely stifling my work.  This semester has shown me there are places my work belongs.  Hopefully, one of them is in an auction house for $179 million.

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