Sunday, January 29, 2012

9-11 on a Dice Roll

Acrylic on gessoed hardboard,11¼ x 14¼''
Painting #205, 2012

This past September I was invited by the Elliott Fouts Gallery to take part in a group exhibition entitled ''Planes, Trains and Automobiles'' scheduled to open on March 3. The idea of using a Monopoly game board came to me during the following week as I was driving to the Greater Moncton Airport to pick up a family friend who was on a returning flight from Montreal. Upon taking the airport exit, you have to cross a railroad track to get to the terminal. So there I was, in an automobile, crossing a train track, to get to a plane.

My initial idea was using one of the four railroad spaces on the Monopoly game board. But the concept changed once I was able to acquire a plane and a train token on eBay. The locomotive engine token is part of the Monopoly ''70th Anniversary'' edition, while the jet plane game piece is from the Monopoly ''Here and Now'' edition. All three token have different finishes, the car has a semi-luster metallic finish, the train has a chrome finish while the plane is made of pewter.

As I was setting up the board game for the initial photo study and started moving the pieces around, the whole narrative came to me when I dropped the jet plane on New York Ave. I felt my heart sinking and it became a very unsettling moment. At the same time, it felt too important to dismiss. By the time I was done setting up the props, my initial concept would take on a whole new direction. The image may seem whimsical on the surface but has many cross references. The first serving as a 9-11 memorial on lives lost, the many injured and those left behind.  The 2001 World Trade Center disaster was also an attack on democracy and freedom, and the aftermath would immediately impact air travel, airport security and cross border crossing on a global scale. The count of dots on each dice totals 9 + 11,  and the two hotels are in reference of the Twin Towers. 

September 11, 2001 is forever etched in our consciousness. I was driving to Fredericton, NB to view an art exhibit at the Beaverbroook Art Gallery when I heard the drama as it unfolded live on radio. Later that evening and for the following days, I just sat in a numb state, transfixed and in disbelief in front of the TV set, absorbing the surreal video footage being replayed which also included two other passenger planes, one that targeted the Pentagon in Arlington, Va and a fourth (United Airlines Flight 93) that crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The repercussions of the September 11 terrorist attacks are all immeasurable in the emotional, financial and physical realm. It would later lead indirectly to the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as additional homeland security spending, totaling at least $5 trillion.

A year later, I would visit ''Ground Zero'' where the World Trade Center once stood. Seeing the cross made from recovered steel beams rising above the ashes like a Phoenix was an overwhelming sight. As was the banged- up Sphere Sculpture that once stood outside the World Trace Center (surrounded by a water fountain) that was recovered in the wreckage and installed as a memorial site next to an eternal flame as the centerpiece of the Hope Garden in nearby Battery Park. 
The Train engine on Kentucky Ave is in reference to the ''Blue Grass State'' for having the most productive coal field in the US and for it's mining history. Coal was the primary source of fuel for steam engine locomotive prior to WW2 before eventually switching to gasoline, diesel and electricity. Kentucky is also the fourth largest producer of automobile in the United States. The Chevrolet Corvette, Cadillac XLR, Ford Explorer, Ford Super Duty truck, and the following Toyota vehicles: Camry, Avalon, Solara and Venza are all assembled here.

And of course the little roadster is on ''Free Parking'', since ''the Best things in life are still FREE'', including a smile. There is currently a price to pay for clean air, clean water and personal freedom. The top numbers on the dices equal seven as a symbol that we can still count our many blessings even when life has many unexpected turns.

-In the Monopoly ''Here and Now'' edition, the railways have been replaced by the four    
 largest airports in the US. The tokens have also been revamped. The Scottish Terrier has   
 been bumped by a Labradoodle, the boot by a New Balance sneaker, the car by a Toyota 
 Prius, there is also a large McDonald's fries, a Starbucks Coffee mug, a Motorola cell  
 phone and a laptop computer.
-Tokens from the Monopoly US ''Here and Now'' Edition were flown into space aboard  
 Space Shuttle Atlantis in 2007.

''Planes, Trains and Automobiles'' Invitational group show 
at the Elliott Fouts Gallery, Sacramento, CA, March 3- April 5, 2012.


Monday, January 2, 2012

Marbles over Tintin

Acrylic on gessoed hardboard, 2011
5 x 7', painting #204

Maybe I should have entitled this painting ''Losing my marbles over Tintin''. I first mentioned Tintin in 2008, when the book, Tintin in Tibet by Hergé appeared in my painting ''Are we there yet?''. I have been a fan of The Adventures of Tintin since elementary school. Having read all of the two dozen comic books which were written and illustrated between 1929 to 1976.  My son Jean-Luc has the entire collection of book and made-for-TV animated series on DVD. Tintin is a globe-trotting, crime solving Belgium journalist/reporter. He is strong for his stature, an agile fighter, car and motorcycle driver, flies planes and an able marksman. He relies greatly on his keen sense of deduction and intuition to save the day. He was created by Georges Rémi under the pen name Hergé. Tintin first appear as a comic strip in a newspaper in Belgium in 1929. The books have been translated in 50 languages and 200 millions copies have been sold. It remains one of the most popular comic book in Europe, and in French Canada. 

Tintin and Snowy (Milou) by Hergé

I learned back in 2008 that Steven Spielberg had begun work on the film ''The Adventures of Tintin'' with Peter Jackson as a producer. Spielberg had first acquired the rights to make a film based on Hergé's comics back in 1983. It is rumored that someone made a remark to Spielberg after the release of the first Indiana Jones movie, which reminded him of the Adventures of Tintin. At the time he was not familiar with the Tintin serial and was given the whole comic book series in French. 

The film, The Adventues of Tintin opened in Europe in October and has since grossed in excess of 230 million dollars. Opening on the North American screens to favorable reviews on December 21, the film has amassed 40 million dollars on it's first 10 days. The script for the first installment combines the story lines of three books, The Secret of the Unicorn as the main story plot with exerts of Red Rackham's Treasure (1943) which is it's sequel. Scenes from the earlier The Crab with the Golden Claws (1940-41) is intertwined in the script to introduce the Captain Archibald Haddock character, who would eventually become is best friend and joined him in later escapades. 

The film has already garnered a Satellite and a Golden Globe Award for best animation film. Producer Peter Jackson, whose company, Weta Digital provided the computer animation, intends to direct a sequel.

Realism may be falling at the wayside with Academia and the art world, while the opposite is happening in animated movies. The facial features of the characters do retain a cartoonish flair, but the rest of the visuals are simply mind boggling. The hands of Captain Haddock appears so life-like. The evolution in digital animation is so advanced that it is often indistinguishable from real life.  

Hopefully the film will act as a vehicle to promote the books to a greater audience. Respected film critic Leonard Maltin noted in his review that he was ''completely unfamiliar with Hergé’s popular illustrated stories''. Hoping that this film will change all of this.

For this painting I used the cover image of the hand-drawn animated series on DVD of ''Le secret de la Licorne'' (The Secret of the Unicorn) from which the Spielberg film is based on. Underneath the mason jar glass lid hides the Unicorn, the ship that was once the vessel of Captain Haddock ancestor. 

Tintin Trivia:
-The very successful 1980's British band, The Thompson Twins was named after the latter characters.
- Tintin lives at 26 Labrador Street, Brussels, Belgium.   

''Tintin is myself. He reflects the best and brightest in me; he is my successful double. I am not a hero. But like all 15 year-old boys, I dreamt of being one..... and I have never stopped dreaming. Tintin has accomplished many things on my behalf.''
-Georges Rémi (Hergé)

Exhibited at Handworks Gallery
12 King Street, Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, E2L 1G2

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Always Coca-Cola

Acrylic on gessoed hardboard, 2011
7 x 5'', painting #203

The title is from a 1993 Coca-Cola slogan. The image is a crop shot from the same source photo used for Coca-Cola Bottles. This is the actual original version before I started to change colors using Photoshop. I was hoping to get this painting and tomorrow's posting at Handworks Gallery way before Christmas, but there was just too much stuff happening in my life to reach the deadline.

Wishing you all the very best for 2012, with a full new year ahead of us, all is possible. May your inner light shine brighter than ever before.