May 06, 2010
My current work focuses on the manipulation of fears and desires by mass media and popular culture. The work is part autobiographical and part social commentary. Through the process of drawing and painting, I am able to look back at various points of my life and re-examine what my basic fears and desires were, and how those emotions were fed by the media sources I consumed.
The bogeyman of my youth was Communism. I remember that the threat of nuclear was not only constant, but it was also imminent. There was an ominous feeling that at any moment the red scourge of a Soviet missile would come screaming from the sky to wipe out everything in site. This fear was reinforced by school emergency drills. Alarms would sound, and, in an orderly fashion, we would file out of our classrooms to take refuge in the dark basement hallways next to the school boiler-room. Upon reaching our designated shelter, we were expected to kneel down and duck our heads between our legs and cover our heads with our hands. Even as a kid I remember thinking about the pointless nature of those procedures. It occurred to me that it was all just a ruse, and that such actions were only initiated to maintain the illusion of security and safety.
These same feelings arise whenever I travel. It baffles me that every time that I go to fly, I am expected to remove my shoes and belt before I pass through the security checkpoint. Just consider the shear absurdity of queuing through bomb scanners, x-ray machines and metal detectors only to be informed that there are too many ounces in your tube of toothpaste, and that your bottled water is a security risk. Are they really looking for security threats, or are they only focused on filtering out common items to make it appear that they are doing a thorough job? It is quite clear that there is a new bogeyman in town and his name is Terrorism.
There is no denying that there are dangerous people in this world, but the constant warnings only lead me to question their relevancy. The thing that makes the fear of terrorism such a powerful fear is that it is sensational, and boy do we love sensationalism. We face far greater risks of dying in automobile accidents than we do falling victim to terrorist attacks, but somehow our fear of terrorism is exponentially higher. This is because driving is a common activity, whereas terrorism (for a majority of us) is a foreign phenomenon. Our understanding of terrorism comes purely from our association with images, and these images have a way of preying upon our imagination. We are much more afraid of the unknown.
When I explore subject of fear in my artwork, I do so to understand its affects on people and society in general, as well as a way to gain insight into how fear affects me on a personal level. I engage in this type of work because I am fascinated by the power of fear. It is a raw emotion that has direct ties to our survival instincts (see fight or flight). At times, listening to fear will keep you alive, but other times it only prevents you from living. My work not only questions the basis of fear, but also allows me to regain some control over my emotions. Rather attempt to eliminate fear altogether, I try to acknowledge it, accept it and then subvert it. My work provides a means to overcome fear, and I hope the end result is a piece that inspires more people to do the same. We might not be able to control what happens in this world, but we can control how we respond to it.