« Run, Rabbit, Run | Main | Sarah Vanphravong »

Patrick Vincent

My first engagement with “art making� was when I was five years-old trying to draw Superman with my older brother. To this day I am still fascinated with a graphic image like Superman. Moreover, I am also interested in how something like Superman functions as an icon in popular culture. The themes I have investigated in my art at the University of Minnesota are largely concerned with popular images, either taken from or inspired by mass media imagery. I am interested in how popular culture sees and consumes these images.

I am favor mass media imagery because it reveals popular culture’s attractions, fears, desires, and insecurities. Mass media imagery in popular culture, or mass images, can also reveal how we use the images communicate aspects of our culture. In my work I have attempted to make these very common images feel strange. In other words, I am trying to approach the uncanny— the dual sense of the strange and familiar. In doing so I hope to jar the connection between what these mass images signify and how they appear in our daily lives. I want to confuse and expand possible interpretations of mass images.

I favor printmaking as a medium for using mass images because multiples allow for the greater dispersal of my own imagery. Prints themselves are an archaic form of mass media. Printmaking, I think, retains the mystique and reverence that often accompanies media such as painting but is not as restricted to its place like painting.

Conversely, I have also been investigating sculpture. Unlike most prints, sculpture is very much connected to place. With regards to my investigation, I can communicate the power of symbolic imagery through a sculpture better than I can through a print. Sculptures made available to the public, such as equestrian statues or public art, become mass images in that the public can see them and consume them.

This act of consumption runs through my work as well. I don’t think that we just passively glance at television ads or these equestrian statues. We consume and digest them (and are often left with a stomach ache). I favor teeth and bees in my work because I think that they are the mass images that are most often used to speak about consumption.

How does this all relate to Superman? My drawing Superman is just a cute story, but it does reflect my attraction and interaction to mass media at an early age. All of us in the United States are bombarded by these images and we should consider how our culture is largely referenced through mass media. This may seem scattered and disjointed, but if I could talk about all of these aspects of popular culture in words I wouldn’t need to make

Molly Wicks and I interviewed each other for an assignment for the BFA seminar. This passage illustrates a major drive in my art making:

Molly: First, I want you to talk to me about comic strips.

Patrick: Comic strips?

Molly: And, I want you to talk to me about their influence on your work.

Patrick: OK. What’s actually really funny is that I was reading this article by Art Spiegelman, you know the guy that did the MAUS comics and he did the World Trade Center thing somewhat recently, called “Drawing Blood.� The influence of comics on me is, and this is what his article said too, is that they require you to condense these really complicated subjects into these little images. Especially in old comics, like a crocodile has to mean all these things, or a bunny has to stand in for just this whole idea that someone would have to describe in a 50-page paper, but instead in cartoon you do it with a little image. In my artwork, I use those compacted icons and images to try and talk about something bigger. At the same time, people think that the images are already arrested— that they are decided. Like a rabbit means this or bee means that. I say rabbit and bee because as you know I use those images a lot. I think they’re more complicated because there’s a shared assumption of what they mean. There’s also more complicated personal interpretations. I also like that aspect that they’re very complicated but seemingly simple images— it seems that everyone knows what it means. But, then there is always this kind of discrepancy with what people really mean and what you personally interpret and things like that.

When I talked with Molly Wicks I am talking about how mass images are made to mean more than they actually are. Thus, our everyday lives are invested in a symbolic language wherein advertisements communicate more than their face value.

My primary influence from the art world and canon would have to be Salvador Dalí. I researched Dalí in Spain during the summer of 2005. In my research, I dug beyond the melting clocks and curled mustache— although they were important as well to my interests. I concentrated on Dalí’s involvement in mass media and kitsch. Dalí made advertisements and products for Osbourne brandy and contributed several illustrations for Towne and Country magazine, along with other endeavors. I have integrated my study of Dalí into my own work.

The everyday influence in my art is mass media imagery— more specifically that of product packaging and television ads. I grew up in Minneapolis, within one of the more concentrated areas of the city. I grew up surrounded by advertisements on billboards and television, like any one else. While my parents insisted I attend the Minneapolis museums, particularly the MIA, I had more of an intimate interaction with the cartoon rabbit on the Trix cereal box than I did with a Van Gogh painting, or a Whistler etching. Today I have isolated myself more from these mass media images, but they are unavoidable and I still find them to be inspiring. I have become contemplative about how I know more about the world around me through mass media representation than I really do from my own experiences. I create visual pieces— “artworks� if the term is apt— to explore, reconcile, and/or complicate the juxtaposition between the real world and the representation of it through mass media.

I work between multiple disciplines because I think that each material and method communicates something distinct about an artwork. I favor printmaking because it connects to mass media while preserving the artist’s hand in the work. Printmaking— i.e. intaglio, silkscreen, and lithography— began a mass dispersal of imagery that has expanded into television and digital processes. I favor the older, hands-on techniques because I think a person’s interaction with an image or object that he/she creates makes that image/object more interesting and more mysterious. Why would a printmaker make this image? Moreover, why would a person duplicate by hand when he/she can use digital processes? I like printmaking because it can directly connect a creator or artist to mass media.

The work that best exemplifies my themes and medium is a silkscreen print entitled “Splehendid.� The print appropriates a logo from a British beer called “Old Speckled Hen.� The logo is a well-dressed, anthropomorphized fox holding a tall glass of the ale. I situated the fox in a backdrop, done in the same style of the logo, where other foxes greedily drink from a wooden cask and chickens carry other chickens to be boiled and distilled into the Old Speckled Hen beer. I made this print because of two reasons: first, I have an attraction to certain animal imagery; second, I wanted to explore the implications of the logo. I gravitated to this logo before I thought of using it as an artwork. I love the fox as a symbol; a fox reads as swif and clever, and its fur radiates an uncommon orange speckled with white and black. The logo uses this cultural currency of the fox, but it also uses it to compliment its namesake. In some advertisements the fox drinks the beer and exclaims, “Splehendid�— playing up the notion that the beer must involve hens for him to enjoy it. I teased out this idea by creating an image where the beer is nothing but the product of a vat of processed chickens.

I don’t believe this is my best work but it exemplifies my fascination with mass media imagery and printmaking as a medium. I borrow from Dalí in that I use kitsch art to elaborate larger perspectives about imagery and image production. Dalí investigated his motifs by attaching them to consumer goods because they expanded mundane objects into a broader range of interpretations. Furthermore, the “Splehendid� print echoes my discussion with Molly Wicks. The print involves mass media violence and incorporates a comic-book aesthetic.

I feel that my approach to art resonates with Dario Robleto’s interview, “The Magic That’s Possible.� Dario Robleto infuses his artworks with various materials. They are intricate in how they speak volumes through material but are relatively subtle in their form. He borrows from his personal history with DJ culture by seeing art as a process of “sampling.� Just as DJs sample music, Robleto samples material. I feel that this sampling aspect is present in my own work. I sample ad images and transform them into larger statements. In another work of mine, I “sampled� several ad images of bees— ranging from the Honey Nut Cheerios icon to Honey-Toasted cigarettes— to create a grotesque, toothed bee sculpture. With this sculpture I hoped to comment on the consumption of images and products by sampling those very products/images, and then reorganizing them into a different form.

In the article Robleto states, “One of the most beautiful and radical things about sampling is its open door policy to cultural memory.� I enjoy Robleto’s wording because he allows an individual to have his/her own place with or within an artwork while also admitting that there are cultural factors that inform the work. The two works I have discussed admit this same interaction. The pieces are products of a culture forged from mass-produced icons and television commercials, but when re-contextualized an individual has a new perspective on the images and objects.

The bee sculpture and the “Splhendid� print also illustrate my interest in mass media images’ connection to consumption. These works are directly borrowing food-related images because I think image viewing is more than just viewing; looking at mass media images is a consumption of images. We consume and digest images. This notion of viewing as consumption is borrowed from Dalí’s writings. Dalí also saw images as a sort of food of which we are “connoisseurs.� This intrigues me and I try to talk about image consumption by sampling and playing with these very images.

As I move forward with my art making I will undoubtedly expand and change my interests and themes. Nonetheless, I feel confident that the mass media language I have tried to use and talk about will remain fascinating to me.