The photograph on the left, not actually a from the now defunct line of Polaroid cameras but from a fantastic new camera called a Fuji Instax 210, is the first in an on-again off-again project called Casual Gods. I've mentioned how, frustrated with my inability to draw well, I turned to 35mm photography in college, teaching myself how to develop film and print photographs in my own portable personal darkroom. While I remain proud of many of those images, some of them suffered from an embarrassingly pretentious immaturity which I suppose is forgivable considering that they were made by a 20 year old college student. Nearly all of those photographs and negatives are long gone now, having been shredded and burned by me in a fit of doubt and self-loathing. The tiny handful that remain were gifts to friends and fortunately those are the photographs that I am proudest of.
Back then, I was far far too influenced by the photography of...and this link is almost certainly Not Safe For Work...Joel-Peter Witkin, the Vertigo Tarot of Sandman cover artist Dave McKean and, especially embarrassing, the video for the Nine Inch Nails song Closer. That video, incidentally, was directed by Mark Romanek and a significant amount of imagery in it, and in other videos he directed, was lifted directly from other artists. I wonder how that isn't some kind of plagiarism. Anyway, like I said, the whole affair was almost unbearably pretentious in retrospect so it's a blessing in disguise that many of those photographs are gone. So, what I was trying to do with those photographs was, in a weak imitation of Witkin, create something divine in human flesh. I used all kinds of masks, props (wings, feathers, etc.) and turned the models I worked with into something I thought looked like gods made real. Like I said, some of them turned out well, some of them were just awful. It's been almost two decades since I really worked with those ideas but they never left me.
So, the idea with these Casual Gods images was to revisit that idea of the divine made real, but to do so in a decidedly low-tech, tongue in cheek, and vaguely ridiculous way. These images should look as phony as possible, deliberately artificial, and kind of preposterous. The genesis for revisiting these ideas was not only a general sense of disgust at how terribly seriously most of what passes for art takes itself these days, but also some of the work of the artist Erwin Wurm, especially his One Minute Sculptures. In those, any arrangement of seemingly mundane objects - a plastic bucket, a stool, and some tacks - deliberately configured then becomes a piece of art and asks the viewer to reassess what makes something worthy of that title. My Casual Gods would be the same. A human, stripped of clothing, masked in a preposterous way, and given a few simple props would then become a god or goddess. I will probably continue to work on these, but very slowly and for purely personal reasons.
Oh, and if you're curious, I did steal the name Casual Gods from Talking Heads guitarist Jerry Harrison's album of the same name, one of the first cassettes I bought.
Jesus, I can't believe I wrote about myself for that long. I worry that I am hopelessly self-obsessed and my writing is horribly solipsistic. Please call me on that if it's true. I abhor that and fear I am becoming the monster I hate the most.
Okay, the art. The sketchbook. On the left, the first of the Casual Gods images. The Greek goddess of fertility Demeter. On the right, a new version (as opposed to the old ones), of the Green Knight.