My inner child remains a consultant to the process of my art making to this day, complete with the same wonderment which accompanied the various coming of age periods. This includes early 11-year-old Cody's obsession with fantasy novels and AD&D, inspired by artists like Larry Elmore and later, Gerald Brom; the latter also being a military brat like myself--and then also young-adult Cody exploring LSD and consciousness as it relates to image making (and image making as it relates to life).
One problem during my initial period of art creation was the lack of experience--and color expression, which existed in my vision but not in my medium. An example below is the drawing "Prince and the Frog Template":
and "The Gravity of Spirit Corruption":
"Alex in Wonderland" is an offering and homage to the hopes and visions of that earlier immature period. My attempt was to build a Magnum Opus dedicated to the scope of coming of age, sensitive to the context of that time, and in doing so satiate the former gap between feeling and expressing.
"Alex" is the more realized cousin to my earlier work, "Auto-Erotic Sphinx with Toys" (below), which was a playful and provocative prototype.
The style, manner, and approach given to "Auto-Erotic Sphinx with Toys", and more recently with "Alex in Wonderland" can be easily distinguished from other works of my collection, which tend to give more real estate to portraiture and representation. A good contrast would be the painting, "The Encounter" (below), which is my most academic piece.
To be true to process, when I began "Alex", I started in grayscale, with a similar approach to how I might have done so with pencil on paper two decades earlier. The image would not be premeditated. Lines began first as expressive strokes, then suggestions of pattern, which led to concrete forms and relationships.
Immediately sharks abounded. And teeth, eyes, fins, and the bottom half of a nude figure. Or at least, it is mostly nude, as this figure seems to have 3 legs, one of which is independent, dressed in a flowery bell bottom, and standing upon a high heel.
Though much would change in the process of its evolution, certain fundamental relationships had already been established by this point. A central figure existed, connected to a bridge of eyes leading up to the right side. UFO-like ellipses iterate into the distance to the right of the figure, and the capital point of the figure with zigzag teeth begins to remind me of the decals of military jets. I get the feeling of missiles, or projectiles raining down from the upper left part of the canvas toward it.
At this point I begin to block in basic color suggestions, and allow the paint to also challenge the assumptions of my initial draft.
Lips of some kind suction onto the figure; their exact nature still uncertain--is it human, leech, or something else entirely?
It becomes clear also that some kind of evolution or transformation is going to occur in the upper right hand structure, so I proceeded to follow that labyrinth to its intermediate conclusion:
Alien headed spermazoa emerge from, and seem to be penetrating, the UFO membranes right of the figure. That region also gives birth to a toothy "id", which would continue to evolve during the production.
The lips attached to the figure begin to salivate. This seems to be a juvenile "phase", as the entity is self pleasuring.
It is clear to me at his point that the figure and the lips represent the corporeal self...i.e. the body, and the regions extending upward in both directions present more an expression of the mind.
The libidinal character arises in all regions of the body-mind respectively. A phallic fighter jet nose projects into the upper left part of the composition. It is symbolic in nature, metaphorical. The bottom half of a human body denotes real physical sensualism, and the toothy "id" presents a carnal devil of some kind. In this moment, in fact, it reminded me of Japanese "scary" demons, which I'll go into later on. A unicorn horn forms adjacent to the toothy devil, as a balance of intention--being a transform of the libidinal psyche.
A local duality has formed in that quadrant--the toothy goblin below, and a kind of sensual fantasy zone above. The nexus between them forms curves and drips, in an active attempt to solve the visual equation between the two areas.
The sharks also began to develop more, particularly the beached shark at the middle foreground which crystallizes.
At this stage I had a composition problem--the figure presented too much of a firewall for the viewer to be able to move back into the scene. As much as I enjoyed the design of the bell bottomed leg, it had to be modified.
As I reworked it the figure transformed into a mutant Ganesh (playing with crayons). This allowed the viewer to access the floor of the scene, and coupled with some rope floats then circulate through the image.
As you notice above the biggest shark began to wear braces. This is kind of funny because I kept getting this urge to give her orthodontics. After painting them in I was walking in my Thai neighborhood, and what do I see? A black hatchback car with a decal of a shark, WITH BRACES! That synchronicity certainly added to the emerging character of the painting.
The water in the scene begins to gain some energy, but the flatness of the landscape is problematic. Luckily, a large wave rises up to provide movement and variety to the background.
Alex decided to wear socks, striped in allusion to the 80's, and in reference to "Auto-Erotic Sphinx". All the major features and relationships of the painting are completed by then, and so the next task was to evolve and finalize the various regions. The unicorn fantasy/"id" devil archetype significantly upgrades, and provides some much needed balance in value, being much darker.
As we see above the painting is about 90% done. I'll go now into close visual review of the main areas.
The three main sharks of the foreground (in their final form) are:
The Shark with Braces
This entity always walked a tight rope of intention. On the one hand she seemed innocent and awkward. She projects out a symbol of warning, but is this a warning from her or about her? She is also cordoned off from the rest of the scene by the rope floats. Is this to protect the figure, or to alienate a harmless shark?
Beached Shark in Life Saver
This creature is bound and stranded in shallow polluted water. He was quite stylized and fun to create. Unlike the more fluid orthodontics shark, this one had a lot of linear characteristics.
This poor guy to me always seemed genuinely sad, and kind of puppy doggish. Like the Life Saver shark, he was beached and helpless.
One interesting synchronicity about this painting; after the sharks were initially created there were a host of unusual shark attacks in the news. In particular the fatal shark attack in Cape Cod in 2018 (the first they'd had in 82 years), really stood out. I felt throughout the making of this piece that the shark archetypes were connected to events and circumstance out in the world.
The Heaven/Hell Zone
80's Fantasy Zone(Heaven):
Composed of glowing orbs and a prominent unicorn horn, it proudly faces outward and upright with clean bright colors. After the horn had established, I intentionally made sure to have the movie Legend playing in the background as I worked on it. This fueled the light and the dark areas, both.
Notice the devil tail of the "id" creature in this shot also.
"id" Demon (Hell):
This entire infernal region was infested with what i've referred to as influences from "Goblins of the Deep". The ogrish creature with curved menacing sets of teeth salivates and drips; a primitive maw of desire and consumption.
The style of the teeth, with their curve, definitely called to mind Japanese scary demons, such as these:
Otoroshi (おとろし, "scary") Above
and a Demon Mask example below:
This relationship becomes even more apparent when I created a simple symmetry of the "id", which I named "Baphomet":
Crystal Arthropod Third Eye Region:
This entity was fascinating; both calm and emotional, alien and sensitive--its forehead transformed into a kind of segmented arthropod connected to mind crystals.
Ganesh is playing with and nibbling on some crayons. His character was indulgent but benign.
Finally, we come to the finished image of "Alex in Wonderland":
Oil on Canvas, 60cm x 80cm (approx. 24” x 32”), 2018
Official Artist Description:
A figure, Alex, stands mostly naked in the midst of a physical and psychological maelstrom. He is clad only in nostalgic 80’s era socks, on a tenuous island between active waters and a variety of shark denizens. Sharks on the right side of the image are all beached, including a shark with a quartz crystal snout, an orange shark wrapped in a life buoy, and a shark further in the distance wearing an 80’s style shirt with the number “88”. On the left side is the largest shark, wearing bright glossy red lipstick and brandishing prominent teeth with braces. She is cordoned off from the figure by a roped float divider, and within her thought bubble is a warning symbol.
Behind the figure, hovering in the air, are Grey aliens emerging from the distance, out of a series of elliptical UFO shaped interdimensional membranes. The Greys take on the visual form of spermazoa ostensibly impregnating the interdimensional thresholds. As is typical, these Greys inhabit a zone just behind the unconscious topology of Alex’s dissociative mind.
Though Alex’s bottom half is representative, his top half mutates into a psychological cornucopia. In a manner akin to “Auto-Erotic Sphinx”, a predecessor work, the figure has self suctioned—an act of sensual infatuation, enjoyment, and exploration.
Upward exists the figure’s primary conscious eye, adorned with a revolutionary beret emblazoned with a Bitcoin badge. The figure’s summit features the nose of a fighter jet facing off against Mario Brothers Bullet Bills, one of whom is marked by a communist North Korean star. A cropped section of a UFO observes the contest.
Alex’s mind branches both left and right. To the left is more singular embodied consciousness, manifesting two eyes and a Ganesh trunk grasping crayons. The right branch dissociates upward diagonally, emerging into an array of eyes, faces, teeth, tail, a unicorn horn, and much more—all of which participate in expressing his unconscious being; a democracy of psychic factions representing thought impressions and associations. All illumination and darkness– fernal, infernal, high consciousness and corporeal underbelly–reside in this realm.
In the distance are relatively languid, light clouds, and against the firmament hovers a colossal distant eye peering over the scene and far beyond.
This painting possesses underlying genetic traits with previous works such as “Auto-Erotic Sphinx with Toys”, “Dionysus”, and “Fuku-Shiva”. The work serves also as a nod to an earlier period of art inspiration during late teens and early twenties— born out of the nakedness, vulnerability, curiosity, and wonder inherent to coming of age and all subsequent psychedelic revelation.