Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Loaded Imagery

What a messy beginning, fun!

What the heck's wrong with this picture?
I was painting a couple of cigarettes today, not from observation but from out of my head!  (It was still fun).  I was mulling over the mixed feedback I was getting on my cigarette paintings and how loaded an image it is.  Some people that were ex-occasional smokers, (I know, how does one smoke occasionally?) found the imagery nostalgic and could appreciate the lushness of the paint and obvious love with which the subjects were rendered.  They joked about which room such a painting should go in.  Maybe they could just carry it around like a pack of cigarettes in their pockets or rolled in their sleeves (the paintings are almost as small as a pack of Marlboros) and offer them outside night clubs to potential ironic smokers.  Some ex-smokers were more leery of the subject matter and still felt the power of addiction.  Other people didn’t want to look at the paintings at all because of the imagery.
I thought at first I understood the feelings of each group.  But I think it’s still a little strange that we find this subject so powerful and loaded and maybe distasteful, yet there is a violent, horrible image and symbol that we as a society live with and don’t think twice about.  It’s of an almost naked man impaled on cross with a sadistic crown of thorns encircling his head.  People wear crosses around their necks with out offending others, but I don’t think that people could wear cigarettes around their necks without being thought of as really provocative.
Then there were two.  (What's wrong with that shadow?)
Something is still wrong? 
Back to my painting… The reason I was painting out of my head today was because I wanted a composition of two cigarettes resting together in an ashtray.  I couldn’t find an image on the internet.  I started to think I should buy a pack and an ashtray and light the cigarettes, position them in a variety of interesting ways and take a bunch of pictures to work from.  I thought I can do that, I stopped years ago.  I wasn’t going to smoke again, no way…. Then I thought “heck no, I am not playing around with that again!”  It was a love, hate, Hate relationship.  Anyone that doesn’t respect the power of the cigarette is a fool.  Hmmm, maybe there is a natural correlation.  Here is an image too powerful to mess around with.  Maybe I should go back to painting dogs?
Now its finished.

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