Is there a “too far” when it comes to art? When one gazes at the dark canvases of strange, wondrous, and twisted cadavers and creatures that inspired the movie “Alien,” by the late genius HR Giger, one can not help but wonder, “What in the world was that guy thinking?”
The art itself is modern mastery at its finest. There are hints of Rembrandt’s attention to light and shadow coupled with the surrealism of Salvador Dali. When you examine the subject matter, the question of the artist’s sanity moves to the forefront. After all, Giger has got to be crazy to create such things, right?
From Simon Bisley’s depiction of Lobo decimating anything in his path to the fantasy of Frank Frazetta, there is carnage, severed heads, limbs askew, buxom warrior women and muscled barbarians with veins bulging just beneath the surface, about to explode from the covers of magazines and comic books into the hands of ravenous fans. The brushstrokes, the realism, the flow of the picture makes you wonder, have those guys actually witnessed a bulbous mountain troll rip the arms off some lowly peasant?
Violent figures and strange alien things aren’t the only signals that make you want to immediately test an artist for psychosis. We can also take a look at the controlled chaos of Jackson Pollock, splattering paint across a canvas that reaches far beyond the corners assigned by its size. I suppose to many, our first glance dismisses it as something a petulant child can do. However, upon further examination, we see control and precision that has a degree of expertise, which is not as easy as it looks. And the larger the canvas, the further Pollock tried to expound his boundaries.
Are these swirls of paint or styled photograph or even chiseled stone insanity, or do they merely reflect the deepest recesses of humanity the “ordinary citizen” dare not speak? When Andres Serrano debuted “Immersion (Piss Christ),” a photograph of a crucifix placed in a jar of his own urine, many called him crazy, among other things. This art was the height of controversy – some going so far as to say it wasn’t “art” at all. Vincent Castiglia’s “The Sleep” is a surreal and haunting piece of a decomposing demonic-like creature holding a man reluctantly drifting toward the nightmare of his own decomposition. And this piece is painted entirely with the artist’s blood. Talk about your blood, sweat, and tears… But does that make him crazy? Is it the subject the artist is trying to convey or the medium with which he speaks? What makes Picasso’s “Guernica,” his black and white masterpiece against war, more or less outrageous than “Holy Virgin Mary,” a painting made with elephant dung by Chris Ofili. Incidentally, “Holy Virgin Mary” sold for over two million dollars. Some would say that is crazy.
All in all the examination of society is left up to the artist holding the cracked mirror so we can see the many reflections of ourselves. Whatever tools the artist chooses to use, however far they choose to go, we realize is only as far as their journey takes them. And that is the sanest thing of all.
By S.R. Torris