My recent work consists of dark, ironic, and absurd toys and action figures presented under the fictional toy company brand RHINO TOYS. One year ago in response to the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting I made two action figure pieces titled Teacher and Student respectively. Each figure, which I customized from existing 3 and 3/4” toys, came packed with a large array of guns, bullets, clips, body armor, grenades, gas masks, and human targets. Appropriating a toy design concept became a way of communicating my perspective on current events happening in the United States and around the world. A toy is supposed to be innocent and for children. The world children are growing up in today is anything but innocent. These toys represent this reality. The art making process for RHINO TOYS consists of meticulously crafted toy package designs made in Adobe Photoshop. Old home photos from my childhood, or current photographs of my family, are used in the packaging design. Once these designs are printed, they are hand cut and assembled with archival tapes and adhesives.
RHINO TOYS has organically grown from my earliest Rhinoceros series of artwork, which consisted of pastel and pen and ink drawings loosely based on the play Rhinoceros written by absurdist playwright Eugene Ionesco (1959). The play and the earlier work I made helped me contextualize a brutal physical attack I experienced in college. The Rhinoceros characters in that work addressed individuality, gang mentality, masculinity, power, and oppression. RHINO TOYS are an expansion of the world of those characters, and while fictitious in nature, reflect society today.