What is "Surreal Pop Art"?
In the movie "Close Encounters of
the Third Kind", the character played by Richard Dreyfuss displays a great
example of what I call "Surreal Pop Art". Driven by something he can't
quite seem to put his finger on and something beyond his ability to control,
over and over he sculpts a vision from his mind, a vision that he does
not understand. Although
his first efforts don't satisfy his mind's eye, he continues to search,
to refine, until the time comes that he makes the connection between what
is coming out of him and what it means. Although the image in the
movie was placed in his head by aliens, we all have subconscious imagery,
visions that represent our life's experiences and emotional states.
Some of these visions are shared
by many people as a result of mass culture and/or
shared experiences. While these "visions" are not exclusively reserved
for 'visual' images only (music would certainly be another), I will use
visuals as my point of reference since I'm a painter. Classic Pop
Art concerned itself primarily with media images. But there are other
images that we all share that come from outside the media culture.
The sky, swirling clouds, the moon, the sun, the night sky, the face of
our mother as she rocks us to sleep as a child. In some ways, these
types of images are the cores of our beings, the foundation of our emotional
memory. As life goes on, we add images to our memory and we begin
to diverge from one another on the meaning of imagery depending on the
circumstances of our lives. These visions may have a broad cultural
recognition, but their meaning can only be understood by us in terms of
our own experiences. This is the "pop art" of our subconscious.
Commonly recognized symbols that mean different things to different people.
I call my art "Surreal Pop Art" because
I am driven to put the familiar images of my subconscious down on paper/canvas
and interpret the meaning they have for me. The ones
that mean the most to me personally generally don't connect with others
unless they have had very similar life experiences, while the ones that
speak of more general ideas tend to be more accessible.
Recognizing that there are many people
on the earth who have had it worse than me, I have to say that my life
up until a few years ago was a pretty miserable existence. When I
was 9 years old, my father killed my mother while my brother and I were
in the house. He was a schizophrenic and had been building toward
that most of my life. I'll not go into all the other psychological
details that made me what I am, but suffice to say, that type of trauma
is not emotionally healthy for a little kid.
Afterwards, I lived a pretty 'normal'
life as far as I knew. I thought I had dealt with the loss, when
in fact I had simply shoved it under the table because it was too horrible
to think about. As an adult, I had built a very successful business,
had a wife, children, the dream, as most people would say. Yet, the
more I got what I thought I wanted, the more miserable I became.
I was working like a compulsive fool, totally addicted to work and stressed
out beyond belief. In hindsight, I was literally dying.
I decided to take a painting class
as a distraction because I'd always enjoyed art. It didn't take long
before I got bored with painting 'happy little barns' and I started pursing
my own interests, which were rooted in a fondness for Post-Impressionist
art and VanGogh in particular. In trying to imitate that style of
painting, I inadvertently also latched on to the emotional expression that
went with it. The Post-Impressionist painters were, in my mind, surrealists,
long before surrealism became a "movement".
The stuff I was doing was starting
to give me an 'uncanny' feeling, and I started to obsess on art (as I am
prone to do), but I couldn't really put my finger on it. Like the Richard
Dreyfuss character, I was driven to 'sculpt' visions from my mind, symbols
that seemed to mean something to me, although I didn't know what.
I call the paintings from this time "Blindspots", because I couldn't see
The intensity of my paintings began
to mirror the intensity of my burnout and misery. I eventually decided
to see a therapist because I knew I couldn't continue on like that.
I was lucky to find a good therapist and almost immediately, the misery
of my mother's death and the rest of my screwed up life started to gush
out of me. I saw that all the paintings I had been doing were little
messages 'from me to me' using my own symbols to try to express the source
of my misery.
This kind of freaked me out and I
fell into painting almost continuously as a sort of medication to keep
me grounded. I discovered Keith Haring at this time and was really
excited about his stream of consciousness approach to painting. My thoughts
were racing at about a thousand miles an hour, trying to re-index my perceptions
of who I was and why I did what I did. I began to use painting
as a way of expressing myself in the moment, like a series of journal entries
that documented all the pain and misery flowing
out of me. These paintings are represented on my site in the "Meltdown"
and "Fallout" galleries.
I know this is getting a little melodramatic,
but having that veil of denial drop away, that wall between me and my emotions
crumble, it was scary as hell. I'd been hiding from this stuff my
whole life and I didn't really want to look at it now. I just didn't
have a choice anymore. It came out and I put it on canvas.
I'm not a great technician when it comes to painting, but I think I have
a talent for self expression.
Since then, I've sort of reintegrated
myself and am actually enjoying my life, doing the things I want to do
and eliminating the things that were keeping me miserable. My painting
is not as intense, but I still do a lot of it. I am exploring myself
in a different light now and I really don't know where I'm going with it,
I'm just going with it. These paintings are in the "Unknown" gallery.
I got on the web about a year ago,
and it has become a big part of my artistic pursuits. Like most people
(come on, be honest), I found myself looking at porn on the net.
I also noticed that 'art' sites don't get a lot of traffic so I had the
idea to combine the two to see if I couldn't get some exposure for my paintings
(some of which are graphically sexual anyway). Surreal Pop Erotica
was born by taking the 'pop art' of the internet - porn - and adding my
own aesthetic to it with photo manipulation. Along the way, that old surreal
process took over and I found I was using this new medium and subject mater
to explore my own sexuality. It's interesting when you start to analyze
what turns you on (ie: what you look at) in terms of it's symbolic significance
to your own life. I don't expect that a lot of porn surfers are doing
that, but it's still interesting how it all works. We're wired for
sex and I think we develop our preferences
at a pretty early age. It's another tool for self-analysis if you care
to use it that way. If not, knock yourself out anyhow.
The erotica site had the intended
effect of drawing more traffic to my painting site. Not everyone
is going to like what I do, but that's OK. I have a little fan base
who appreciate what I am doing, which is nice validation, but I really
do it for me. It's just what I do.
The web is really not a practical
place for an artist to sell paintings. You are trying to display
something on a medium that simply cannot translate the visual experience,
and who want's to buy something they've never seen in real life?
Rather than focus on selling individual paintings, I've decided to focus
on the digital. Because I'm such a friggin' compulsive, I have a
huge amount of paintings and graphics from the past 5 years, more than
is practical for the website. I thought it might me cool to
put it all on CD so that seeing it all would not involve a lot of waiting
for file downloads. I've put almost everything on CD ROM, including
stuff from my sketchbooks, expaned biographical info, video clips, entries
to juried art competitions, and at least 200 paintings, graphics and drawings
that aren't currently on the website. Info on the CD is available
at the website.
To wrap it up, I'll go back to the
Close Encounters analogy. Dreyfuss' character was greatly relieved
to discover other people, painters, sculptors, and artists in general,
who shared his vision and his passions. I've found many of those
people on the web, including Rick at Artbabyart.com, and it feels good
to know you're not alone in the world.Come visit the site when you have
some time and happy surfing.
:: Kris Hoglund ::
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