Diary of an Art Fiend

I’ve been mesmerised by images for almost a month now, to the point where words on Beautiful Railway Bridge seem to have evaporated from the page. I didn’t intend to get hooked on images. The first one was just an innocent Philosoraptor on July 3, an attempt at meme-play because I could, enabled by a new reconditioned MacBook and a drawing program on NeoOffice. Moan Lisa’s Art Akadamie on Google+ got me started, drawing hundreds of impressionable wannabe artists into an online program that showcases their work. And I already had a gateway activity that fed into art, in the form of photography. But still representational, no messing with the picture. As someone who dropped out of art school, how could I resist this opportunity to dive deeper?

I thought the craving was under control. Another Philosoraptor for G+, and a labour of love in Excalibur for Dummies. This cartoon has been sitting on various hard drives since the mid 90s, in the form of a pdf file with huge amounts of white space and the cartoon squeezed into a corner. Now, with the ability to crop, I could display it properly.

It went downhill from there. Hedgehogs, bison on G+, and the addition of words to my own pictures followed, but nothing could have prepared me for the horror of collages. It was inevitable, I suppose, what with Picasa having that tempting button – create collage – and my finger itching to press it. I’m here to tell that just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.

The first was Collage, under the umbrella heading of ArtyFakts, a tag designed to warn off readers who couldn’t take any more. Even in my present degraded condition, I am capable of some fellow-feeling. I was charmed by the magic of repetition, all pop arty, and the range of colours and effects I could inflict on you, dear readers.

Crass Commercialism came next, followed by a new, disturbing element in my work – sadism. I unleashed my personal daemon – Chucky – on the world in nine different versions. One would have been unnecessary. The most egregious instrument of aural battery is Shop Window Confusion, which began life as an innocent picture of a square reflected in a shop window. Perfectly acceptable in the most respectable home.

What did I do with it? Made it into an eight panel collage, in jarring colours and effects, that make your eyes go doolally and leave afterimages when you look away. Because I could. Mea Culpa!

But perhaps the most disturbing are Double Vision and Richard of York, examples of what you might call my gross pathology period. I used an optician’s photos of my own eyes to produce a composite image of both eyes looking left, right, up, and down. Then, in Richard of York, reproduced it in different colours. Last week I went for an endoscopy (mouth end) and only just stopped myself from begging the doctor for photos.

In any 12 step program, it is essential to apologise to those you have harmed.  I do so now, unreservedly. This is my penance. While I cannot promise to cease and desist from further ArtyFakts, for the craving is still too strong, I will write a 500 word blog post every day. In so doing, I may find a way back into the sane world of words.

Thank you for your support.

Birthers: More asinine antics from Arizona

You may remember Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio, convening a ‘posse’ to investigate Obama’s long form birth certificate. I blogged about it in March Madness. It now appears that Arizona Secretary of State, Ken Bennett, might prevent Obama’s name from appearing on the ballot in Arizona, unless Hawaii certifies the authenticity of the long form certificate. Quite how they would do that, since the document is itself the final seal of authenticity, is beyond me. Here’s the story from the Seattle PI –  Obama: the ‘birthers’ are back.

In a delicious twist of irony, Hawaii is withholding information from Bennett on the grounds that he hasn’t verified his own identity or right to request such verification. Sweet.

Here’s a news report, followed by Birther Madness in Arizona: The Movie!, if you really want to get into the details. I’m already bleeding from the ears.

March Madness

Barack Obama is extraordinarily lucky in his political opponents. Who would have guessed that the GOP primaries were going to be such a dunderheaded display of economic illiteracy, contempt for human rights and constitutional freedoms, and religious frothing at the mouth. I accept these are the default attitudes of many Republicans, particularly now that the Teabaggers have yanked them so far to the right that their language no longer describes what happens in the real world. But to have a full deck of batshit crazy presidential candidates, none of whom are playing with a full deck? Priceless.

Now you might remember all that fuss about Obama’s birth certificate last year, and Donald Trump’s short-lived run for the GOP presidential nomination based on the enormous amount of hot air generated by this ludicrous faux controversy. The wind beneath his wings. Since Obama blew both the issue and Trump out of the sky last April, with the presentation of his long form certificate, things have gone a bit quiet on the Birther conspiracy front. It was great while it lasted, with all the nut jobs crawling out of the woodwork and scaring the shit out of sane Americans.

Well, I have good news. They’re back. Six months ago, the Arizona Tea Party presented Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio, with a petition of 242 signatures, calling for an investigation into the possible forgery of the long form birth certificate. Sheriff Joe, an idol of the far right for his enthusiastic anti-immigrant stance, agreed. He even set up an unofficial “posse” to carry out the investigation.

Today he announced the results of his investigations. Yes, you guessed. It’s a forgery. Not only that, but there are also doubts about his Selective Sevice Registration Card. So it looks like the patients have escaped from the asylum once more, and Obama can count on even more negative publicity for the Republicans. I’m really hoping the primary candidates jump on this bandwagon. Please God (and I’m an atheist).

Here is Sheriff Joe’s, announcement on March 1, and if you want more laughs, the result of the investigation by his Posse. Would it surprise you to know that Sheriff Joe has been severely criticised in a Justic Department report for “unconstitutional policing”, and is the subject of a separate federal grand jury investigation?

Jesus and Mo: Storm in a Beer Mug?

Good news for University College London’s Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society. They put this cartoon on a FaceBook page, advertising a society event, but the Student Union wanted it taken down. The atheists stuck to their guns, and the Student Union have now backed off. See the Guardian article for a complete account of the brouhaha.

So, a victory for freedom of expression. I’m genuinely surprised there was so much fuss about what is a rather charming cartoon about two friends having a pint together. How do I know they’re friends? Because the cartoon is the second frame in a strip. All 4 frames are drawn the same, but the first has the caption, Today Jesus, Mo, and the barmaid have pledged not to say anything which might cause one of them to be offended. The fourth frame has Mo saying, This is nice, isn’t it? Gentle satire on the stupidity of religious conflict, with a sideswipe at political correctness.

Jesus and Mo is a series. Behind the personae of verbally sparring college room-mates, they are the mouthpieces of Christianity and Islam. They also spend a lot of time in the pub, debating among themselves and with the barmaid, who always wins the argument.

Now let’s turn to a far nastier cartoon. The Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy is well-known, and I don’t need to rehash it here. The cartoon on the right is the most egregious of them all, and I’m including it only to illustrate my point.

To be completely clear, I’m a atheist, I think all religions are doctrinal nonsense, and none of them should be allowed any institutional power. No belief should be immune from criticism, and I firmly believe that no-one has the right not to be offended.

That said, the devil’s in the motivation. To my mind, the Danish cartoons spring from bigotry, as does the burqa ban in France. Just in case anyone should think I want to condemn Muslim women to living in a sack, there is provision for a fine and imprisonment if convicted of forcing them to wear it. See my previous blog post here for further thoughts on the subject.

It’s telling that while most newspapers recognized the bigotry, and did not reprint the Danish cartoons, the media that thrive on bigotry pounced on them with glee. I give you, reluctantly, Human Events, which glories in the likes of Ann CoulterNewt Gingrich, and Pat Buchanan. The last thing we need is propaganda.

Jesus and Mo, in contrast, is a humane take on religious belief, bringing it right back to human beings where it belongs. Better yet, it’s funny. Exactly what the debate needs, rather than hatred masquerading as fundamentalist principle.

The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke: Richard Dadd

Richard Dadd (1817-1886) painted The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke between 1855 and 1864, as a patient in an asylum, where he had been committed for the murder of his father in 1843.  Dadd wrote a poem in 1865 explaining the painting, Elimination of a picture and its subject – called the feller’s master stroke.

Here and here are links to the Tate Gallery, where it’s exhibited.  I’m endlessly fascinated by the miniature Shakespearean world in this picture – A Midsummer Night’s Dream with nightmare overtones – which was also the world inside Dadd’s head.  Look at the dwarf with the white beard – he’s clearly terrified.