Yes, it’s a joke. Why? Well, for one, I love my satire. Always have. And I have parodic music by the likes of Flight of the Conchords in among my “favorites” on my music player playlists. Indeed, some songs by Ween achieve a kind of greatness through deliberately trying to be bad, which I think frees up the imagination. Incidentally, I find it extremely useful to think about music, and make comparisons, when trying to see the big picture of art. For example, people who produce for-gallery/museum conceptual artworks, don’t listen to that kind of music, because it’s just not enjoyable.
Specifically, I made this piece in response to a genre of art I despise = the clichéd fantasy photo-manipulation, which are now called “manips”. They seem to be the most popular form of computer art, while also being the most derivative, even plagiaristic, as well as the ones which require the least understanding of artistic fundamentals (especially perspective).
This kind of art uses stock photographs and even more realized art that is up for public use, and just recombines them to sorta’ look convincing. Quite often, the pieces revolve around putting wings on people, and/or gas masks. This is as clichéd as guns and explosions in movies. If I were a film teacher (I have no qualifications whatsoever to be one), I’d insist my students didn’t use any guns in their movies for their first years of study. There are also a lot of giant moons in the sky, and sad attempts at cyborgs that would break if they tried to move. Oh, and let’s not forget unicorns! Oh Christ-kebab-on-a-skewer (I made that up myself), if you do a search for “unicorns” in the “photomanipulation” section of Deviantart, you get all of THESE.
However, even if one pulls out all the clichés and botches it, such as putting two right chicken wings on the back of an angel, and putting them both on the left side of the back, this kind of art is more popular on sites such as Deviantart, than anything I’ve ever done.
So one fine day, I decided, F it, I’ll make my own photomanip. And I did. I made an angel. But, in reference to contemporary art controversies (Chris Ofili’s Holy Virgin Mary, 1996), I put a giant ball of elephant dung in the forefront, with a dung beetle on top of it. I thought it came out pretty good, and better than most of the really popular ones. I mean, the transparency on the wings took a lot of trial and error, and I got the wings themselves from a photo of a dragonfly, NOT from pre-made stock wings. Made antennae out of the head band jewelry thingy, light streaming through the clouds, and tweaked out the hold in the stone gate to be much higher than it really was. Oh, and the glowing light in the hand coming through the fingers…
Then I put it up on Deviantart.
Nobody liked it.
Well, maybe a few people, but not in the tens of thousands who normally like manips. And I don’t think it was because mine wasn’t as good. It’s because it’s satire, essentially. Even though I tried to be cute and make it an “Insect Angel” (now I like to spell it “Angle” to kind of let people in on the joke BEFORE they feel duped) that cares for the lowliest of Gourd’s creatures, it didn’t work. People weren’t fooled. I’d slipped intelligence in there via a deliberate self-mocking. The whole thing said, “Photomanips are sub-art, and give digital art a bad name. People think we just steal other people’s photos and use some easy Photoshop techniques to tweak them out, then crown ourselves unrivaled geniuses.” On second thought I should have used a girl with big boobs. Cleavage is always a plus, guaranteed to get a lot of likes.
As a rule, in my real art, I don’t use anyone else’s photographs. I can take my own pictures and work with those. And I REALLY wish the photomanip crowd would do the same, even if the result is more homespun. But then, I prefer homespun mistakes to slickly packaged clichés, and they’d lose their popularity.
On this topic, my recent piece, though digital, is one of the more challenging pieces I’ve even done. And I should get back to working on it now.
Lastly, do I need to say it IS possible to do meaningful “manips”. Sure, it can be done if one can steer around the biggest cliches, sideline stock photography, and have a grasp of the fundamentals of art.
More parodic art later.