Implacable Demons and Better Angels
In his novel Barnaby Rudge, Charles Dickens wrote, “It is curious to imagine these people of the world, busy in thought, turning their eyes towards the countless spheres that shine above us, and making them reflect the only images their minds contain…So do the shadows of our own desires stand between us and our better angels, and thus their brightness is eclipsed.”
The word “implacable” is almost permanently joined to the word “demons.” Together they describe the unalterable dark forces of the universe and in ourselves that are out to do us in.
Laurie Hogin’s exhibition at Tory Folliard Gallery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is Implacable Demons and Better Angels. It runs through February 4.
Hogin says her paintings “harken back to a number of visual forms that give us our culture and our sense of identity—and that is narrative and storytelling.”
The stories are not for the faint of heart. Cute little bunnies are “a potent and common metaphor in the culture,” she says, “everything from the Easter Bunny to the Playboy bunny.” She explains they are “sick of their status in the iconography of the culture” and they snarl.
She says, “Species are chosen for their allegorical associations in Western culture, but are depicted as degraded or mutant versions: they are the fluorescent colors of contemporary media landscapes. Their morphology resembles toys and cartoons as much as naturalistic specimens. The plants, animals, and objects depicted are the colors of our globalized economy, from the day-glo hues of big-box store commodities to the pixilated palettes of television and the internet, as well as the colors of nationalist identity and political affiliation.”
Her series of Addiction Bunnies are stuck on everything from Crystal to Love.
Individual animals, bunnies often transitioning to something other than pure and white, are often painted alone in a plain field of color. Other, larger dioramas recall complex Dutch still lifes, which, for their time, were laden with symbolic religious meaning.
In A Peacock Among the Ruins, the colorful bird was probably oblivious to the coming destruction because it was too busy preening and admiring itself. Somehow it survived and now stands bewildered among the ruins. The setting sun is red and brings to mind the old dictum, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight…” implying that the storm has passed and tomorrow will be a better day.
Fungi grow on the decaying mass of the previous world, symbolizing its decay. But Hogin says, “Fungi are agents of renewal and evidence of rot.” They free nutrients that are essential to other organisms. They help to return dead material to the soil to be recycled.
Hogin’s narratives are, she says, allegories “of how thoroughly connected we are.”
“Courtesy of American Art Collector magazine.”