In the very beginning of Christopher Mir‘s lecture, he stated that the lecture would be about transformation. He started off showing us a slide that was the beginning of the transformation – Cave, 2012 – and explained his previous work method, which involved digital collages projected to trace onto canvas and printed as reference while painting. Just as it sounds, it was a very controlled and formulaic process. He started to want a sense of freedom and looseness. Innocence, even. Cave is split into three sections, with a girl kneeling in the center, wearing a pale blue dress and interacting with the foliage in the cave rather uncertainly. It seems like an embrace, a nurturing extension of her arms and fingers. Behind her and to the right, there is a man wearing a ranger hat carrying a flashlight. It’s darker and more barren than the area around the girl. Further behind her toward the top of the painting is the cave opening, full of pale shapes that appear strikingly distant and desirable. Actually, every section of the painting feels desirable, though for differing, uncertain reasons. It just feels that way. You can see the collage process, but it appears looser than his earlier work. It congeals and breathes.
Taking a moment to explain Cave and the following slide, which contained another girl, Mir said, “I’ve always been kind of obsessed with goddesses and heroines and other female figures… I really like to tell their stories.” He went on to explain that he thinks women are more advanced than men “in many ways” and “should be running the place”. He joked about the obvious tension this could cause for many men in the room, and as if on cue several women laughed a bit uncomfortably, with varying recognition or disbelief. Regarding Cave, he spoke of Persephone being kidnapped by Hades, and how this relationship relates to art-making. Forgive me, I’m paraphrasing from memory, but basically Persephone represents innocence and an unburdened desire to create while Hades represents the critic, the negative “father”. He mentioned something along the lines of striving for Persephone, but accepting that sometimes she has to visit the Underworld.
This makes sense with later statements he made, about how painting or drawing an image is a way for him to possess it, and allows him to come to terms with it, whatever it happens to be. The moon and the arctic as iconic yet penetrable spaces. Insect and mushroom “self-portraits” painted like icons, giving them a kind of humor and humility. Mir spoke of seeing Picasso’s Guernica and Goya’s Black Paintings in person, and how they changed his life. Simultaneously, he found the images tragic and comical, fearsome and cartoonish. If I understand and remember correctly, this experience is what eventually led him making his most recent and dramatic shift in work: he began to take small, quick, and linear Sharpie marker drawings made on photo paper and turn them into larger paintings made with enamel on canvas over panel. Of the process, he said, “The paintings tend be more methodical, but they’re also more fun.” It sounds like he finally gave himself permission to embrace this personal sense of humor — which was so evident throughout his lecture — and this several years long, necessary “side” practice of drawing absurd things onto photo paper. Absurd things that are meaningful and personal, perhaps more so than previously planned paintings. Mir said that he didn’t think about it a lot, but just responded to images that appealed to him, and that quite a few of the images relate to his family.
I found the lecture to be really interesting, and hopefully not just because so much of what Mir said felt familiar to me personally. Considering how widely the lecture was liked, I’m thinking it’s more than that. No one even complained about “that’s why men have nipples”. (Long story.) He said the lecture would be about transformation, and aside from the most obvious representation of that, there was definitely a feeling of momentum toward transformation and uncertainty within that momentum. I’ve become kind of fixated on the concept of FUTURE recently, as if years of my mom taking me to Disney World’s Tomorrowland as a kid have finally caught up, and the awe and fear and excitement are all rushing to the surface at once. For many reasons, both intimate and global, I think that’s probably the case for many people. And who has not experienced an “end” that became transformation? Mir’s lecture was a really great way to enter the galleries and consider the nuanced responses artists offered to “the end times”. And eat Twinkies and Spam, if that’s your thing.
Below are some images I took at the exhibition reception. There are some more at my Flickr account, if you’re feeling curious or bored. Similarly to last Friday, I didn’t photograph everything, not even everything I liked. The videos within this show were perhaps my favourite, and I have no evidence of that except what’s in my memory. Oh, and what they’ve posted on the internet.
An ebook featuring essays by Mira Gerard and Chase Westfall as well as artwork from The Day on Fire is available for free download at Blurb.com. You can also pay to order a hard copy. I highly recommend downloading/buying it if you’re at all interested in this subject and what little you can see of the work on this blog.