This is a piece I’ve worked on, on and off, for years, usually throwing in the towel when it started to look ridiculous. Finally I think I’ve pulled it off reasonably well. I may put it in color and make a painted version later, and work out some of the small imperfections.
The idea may seem obvious, and like a joke: a crucified alien. Sometimes I gravitate to these sorts of ideas, and the first time I sketched such a concept was about 16 years ago.
Because I conceived a drawing for this theme more than 15 years ago, at which point it was as far as I knew my original idea, I have a kind of attachment to it as something related to my central artistic vision. It’s a kind of statement. I’ve searched Google images for other interpretations, and surprisingly few people have attempted a crucified alien. My earlier sketches and another of my pieces come up in the search, though. The subject itself, however, is not as important as the treatment of the subject.
Now I’ve added in a flying saucer, which I think is important to the image. And I did the alien straight on because, well, my attempts at other angles just didn’t work. It is a real challenge to draw a crucifixion without a model, and get the arms and torso and neck in convincing perspective. This is the type of ordeal we artists don’t have to deal with in abstract work, or landscapes… I could have used 3D software, such as ZBrush to model a figure and then angle it, which would probably be the best way to go, but I wanted to attempt it just using conventional drawing, because that skill will come in handy even if I sculpt something first using 3D software. In addition to everything else, this image is a study of lighting, shading, modelling, and perspective, which I think some artists overlook. And it’s much easier to recreate these elements when working from nature or a photograph, in which case you just copy what you see, than to try to apply them to a drawing from the imagination, in which case you have to understand the underlying principles of lighting, shading, perspective, anatomy…
Making the hands was very difficult. I had to try to make the fingers curl up, in which case the outside of the fingers catch the light, whereas the insides catch it closer to the palm. I got it to about 90% or so of where I’d want it, knowing when I eventually put it in color I’ll hammer out the next level of detail. Notice the shading on the spike. The flat end is completely lit, and there’s a nick in the spike. It seems to be coming out at the viewer. Such little details are some of my favorite parts of images.
I imagine that most people will be put off by the subject, and a few people, like me, will think it’s right on. Many are probably uncomfortable with anything that can be seen as relating to Christianity in any way, and might see this as mocking the religion, or being a part of it. It isn’t either. My interest in crucifixions comes from art history, rather than Christianity, and this can be seen as a contemporary version of the art historical genre of the crucifixion. And then it is mixed with the aliens such as from the original movie version of the War of the Worlds.
Above is the dying alien arm hanging out from one of the crashed Martian ships in War of the Worlds (1953). I saw the movie when I was around 10-12 years old, and was really impressed by it. At this scene I wanted nothing more than to be able to see inside the Martian’s ship! But we didn’t get to see it. It’s difficult now, after the deluge of third-rate sci-fi/horror movies with over-the-top computer effects to remember the initial fresh impression of a bubbling alien arm protruding from an alien ship crash landed in 1950’s America. I know this was at the height of the red scare, but for me, as a kid, growing up in LA in the 70’s, the aliens, though evil, represented the unknown becoming palpably present. A crashed space ship from another planet is just a fascinating thing, and I can hardly think of anything that could be potentially more interesting.
I’ve discussed this elsewhere, but my interest in sci-fi hearkens largely back to the shows I saw on TV as a kid, and how exciting I found them then, rather than to newer sci-fi (with some wonderful exceptions like the 1986 remake of “The Fly”, which I also made an interpretation of). And I was chiefly fascinated with the monsters. You could say that the monsters represented the numinous.
I mention this because I want to maintain the thread of my initial love of art. When I was in grad school I was supposed to embrace anti-art and conceptualism, and as a grad student the only viable option for me in my radical art department was to make installations about my white male privilege. But I didn’t become an artist because I wanted to trash myself for being a white male, or because I wanted to make pieces that derided traditional visual art. I wanted to be an artist because I loved visual images (irrespective of the politics or genetic makeup of the artist), not because I hated them. I liked looking at my album covers while listening to the records with headphones on. I liked stills from sci-fi and horror movies. I liked art on book covers and in magazines. In the end my art is informed by my art school background, but I refuse to abandon my real passion for art.
There are several possible interpretations of the image. I gravitate towards ambiguity, and the possibility of divergent simultaneous perspectives. Ambiguity allows for seeing something from two perspectives at once, and is something that’s critically lacking in a lot of political perspectives which attempt to have all the clearly defined answers, and do not allow for another vantage point.
Here, for example, we can see the saucer as either coming, leaving, or overseeing. I intended it to be ominous and threatening, with lightning and tendrils coming from it. It is also austere and impenetrable. The saucer could be abandoning the alien, or us (perhaps out of disappointment), or it could be coming for vengeance. Alternatively there need be no humans in this at all, and the scenario could take place entirely on another planet. I’m not going to spell out all the possible interpretations, and prefer to leave something for the viewer to ponder.
As the image relates to the traditional crucifixion, two phenomenon stand out to me. One is the conviction of someone who is willing to die for his or her beliefs, and the other is the conviction of people who are willing to kill someone for his or her beliefs. This stresses the importance people attach to beliefs, and the capacity of humans to hold entirely separate and antagonistic views as the only and incontestable truth. As I get older I can recognize absolute beliefs more clearly, and the danger they represent.
However one slices it, this is a spiritual image of sorts, even if it’s just a kind of pseudo-awe for atheists, existentialists, or postmodernists raised on sci-fi movies. I did intend for it to have some of the gravitas of an art historical crucifixion, as well as deal with the death of the ego, scapegoating, and humiliation. If you look up at the saucer and down at the alien there is a sense of physical space, and then the focus of the image is the dying alien’s glowing eyes, which you may be tempted to tilt your head to look into.
Oh, and I forgot to say what the meaning of “Golgolon” was. There is no meaning. It’s just meant to be suggestive. It could be the name of the alien, the event, or the place where the scene transpires… It is meant to sound appropriately alien and in accordance with the theme.
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