The Struggle: Absurdist Art in a Post-Fact World

A country road.  A tree.

Evening.

Estragon, sitting on a low mound, is trying to take off his boot. He pulls at it with both hands, panting.

He gives up, exhausted, rests, tries again. As before. Enter Vladimir.

ESTRAGON:(giving up again). Nothing to be done.

VLADIMIR:(advancing with short, stiff strides, legs wide apart). I’m beginning to come round to that opinion. All my life I’ve tried to put it from me, saying Vladimir, be reasonable, you haven’t yet tried everything. And I resumed the struggle. (He broods, musing on the struggle. Turning to Estragon.) So there you are again.

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

I don’t like to over-philosophize or politicize if I don’t have to, but sometimes we are called to do things we don’t want to do. I’ve always felt that “truth” within the political spectrum was amorphous at best, and should be treated with whole helpings of skepticism and humor. Such views lead to my interest in the existentialist and absurd writing of Camus, Beckett, and even the more contemporary Lemony Snicket (whose books were recently given the Netflix treatment). The Dadasists and Surrealists also presented such circuitous topics through their readymades and poetic paintings. Ernst, Duchamp, and Maurizio Cattelan probed questions of existing on this earth through wit and cynicism.

In our current political climate, this absurdist attitude seems even more viable as one of the world’s “greatest” countries is taken over by a group of circus clowns (coincidence that Ringling Bros. is shutting down after 146 years?). In the face of adversary, where logic, reason, and “fact” are thrown out the window, a similar absurd attitude only seems logic, though the very logic used to validate it also condemns it.

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“Untitled,” Maurizio Cattelan, 2002

Philosophical-political musings aside, I have begun a series of portraits reflecting the current milieu.

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“My sister called as I drove thru Nor Cal,” charcoal on newsprint, 2017.

The series started, as most good projects, unintentionally. With three canvases, I began three paintings, and three portraits emerged. Each portrait combines pop culture, painting, and the self to reimagine personal images. As facts are deconstructed and presented through various media, personal identity is similarly deconstructed. Our different personas on different media abstract any true identity, leaving us to question if there is any true identity under any of the obscuring layers.

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“Perspective Bacon” 2017 – oil, ink, acrylic, and charcoal on canvas

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“Unnamed, Uninspired” 2017 – watercolor, acrylic, and oil on canvas

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h”Ernst the Rapper” 2016 – charcoal, ink, acrylic, and oil on canvas

I’m not sure if these paintings are actually finished, or if they ever will be…

 

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”
― Albert Camus

 

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