Rhinoceroses, guillotines, windows, mirrors, and simplified heads without bodies have constituted a recurring vocabulary of symbols that I have been exploring in my ink and pastel drawings the last several years. Each of these symbols carry their own distinct metaphors. For example a rhinoceros is known as a small-minded animal that violently attacks without reason, guillotines symbolize judgment and instant death, windows and mirrors represent a dual reality, perception, truth, and paranoia. In my artwork I have focused on creating a visual narrative that exposes the grotesque nature inherent in men. Themes I am specifically investigating in my work include masculinity, violence, control, peer pressure and conformity.
The inspiration for my work, in part, is the play Rhinoceros, written by absurdist playwright Eugene Ionesco. In this story, a rhinoceros runs through a small town in France, causing people to physically become rhinoceroses seemingly due to a mysterious epidemic. As people in power, such as military and government leaders “turn”, so does everyone else. Berenger, the main character in the play, is the only one who doesn’t conform. He bandages his head to prevent a horn from growing out of it in an effort to avoid becoming one of “them”.
One year after reading Rhinoceros, the themes of the play became horrifically real to me. I was at a bar, singled out, and beaten by seven men. These men decided that I was weak and an easy target. They circled me, humiliated me, beat me, and ran off without being caught or facing any consequences. That night, these men decided to follow their animal instincts. They became rhinoceroses. Years later I’ve realized that what Ionesco intended as absurd is in fact our reality. Society is filled with men who want to control and hold power over those they view as weaker.
There is one central figure in almost all of my pieces, an oval-shaped and bandaged head. This character represents the Everyman. He has no arms or legs because he represents psychological rather than physical trauma. In other works there are three horned figures standing in a doorway. They vicariously and voyeuristically live through the pain of others. Lines pass through their horns questioning their perceived power.
We live in an absurd world where power is more important than life. My works are about power: those who hold power, those who abuse power, and those who are powerless.