Extinct Aurochs

The Undeniable Charm of Auroch

Acrylic on aluminum-mounted photograph, 2014, 20"x16"

AUROCH: Hey Robert, what's goin' on?

ME: Just getting ready to head down to San Diego

AUROCH: What's in San Diego?

ME: I have a booth at Comic-Con.

AUROCH: Why do you have a booth at Comic-Con? You're not funny.

ME: It's not really for comedians. It's a place for creatives to meet each other and meet some of their fans.

AUROCH: You don't have any fans.

ME: I might.

AUROCH: Doubtful. Think anybody will buy one of your huge paintings?

ME: No. It's not Art Basel, but it should be a fun week.

AUROCH: Aren't you worried about context?

ME: What do you mean?

AUROCH: I mean, if you hang up something on the walls of the MoMA most people will believe that what they're looking at is important, right?

ME: I guess that's true.

AUROCH: But if you hang that same art on the walls of a suburban coffee shop, most people would dismiss it as amateur, don't you think?

ME: That's very cynical, but I see what you're getting at. You mean if I display my work at SDCC I'll look like an amateur fan artist or a corporate shill, and I'll never be taken seriously by the high art world.

AUROCH: Exactly. Context means everything.

ME: Hmm, well that's pretty condescending. But I guess you need to display your art in a venue where it has the greatest chance of being enjoyed. And besides, many artists at Comic-Con are some of the most talented artists on the planet. I think if knowledgable people see the work in person they wouldn't be so quick to dismiss it.

AUROCH: Ugh! Nobody looks at anything in person anymore! Don't you get that!? Fan art is supposed to be small and cost less than a grand, and it should never take more than a week to make! It needs to look good on Instagram! Don't you get that?

ME: I'm a believer in painting, Auroch. Something that's meant to be seen in person.

AUROCH: Big mistake. You know it's really hot in here.

ME: I think it's comfortable.

AUROCH: No, it's boiling. It's probably because you don't have a single fan.

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Extinct Dodo & Aurochs

Aesthetic Inspiration and the Dilemma of Originality

Acrylic on aluminum-mounted photograph, 2015, 20"x16"

ME: So then I said to Thylo, "What are you talking about? I'm a fork with a pea on it!"

AUROCH & DODO: HAHAHA

DODO: Hey Robert, what do you think of the critics who say that your work is nothing more than Kehinde Wiley with toys, Ron English with patterns, Gilbert & George with paint, or Jeff Koons without the cynicism?

ME: Well Dodo, I'm glad you asked that completely random question. Do you want to know my favorite artist quote?

DODO: Sure.

ME: "Every time I think I've painted something slightly original, I find out that Blek Le Rat has done it as well, only twenty years earlier." Do you know who said that?

DODO: Banksy?

ME: Yup. But I think there's a huge difference between influence and imitation.

DODO: What's the difference?

ME: Conceptually my work has absolutely nothing in common with any of those artists. Our subject matter and motivations are entirely different. But to pretend like artists aren't influenced by other artists is terribly naive. Aesthetic inspiration always comes from somewhere. I've been influenced by hundreds of artists. Every artist is a thief. It's just smart not to be similar to artists that are already famous.

DODO: Still though, you're gonna have a tough time breaking that stigma. The Art World is not going to take kindly to you.

ME: I know.

AUROCH: You've literally spent 60 hours a week, every week, for the last 11 years, making giant paintings of toys. Everyone thinks you're a fucking nerd! That's your REAL problem.

ME: Are you saying my paintings aren't cool?

AUROCH: I'm saying your paintings aren't going to be getting anybody laid anytime soon.

ME: Well, I think that...um...yeah.

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Extinct Thylo & Pigeons

Passenger Pigeons

Acrylic on aluminum-mounted photograph, 2015, 20"x16"

THYLO: Oh no!

ME: What is it?

THYLO: They're back!

ME: Who?

THYLO: A cruel and mean feathered fiend.

ME: Oh no, not the-

THYLO: Like an evil crow from hell below.

ME: The most foul of fowl.

THYLO: A pigeon in need of religion.

ME: A verbal reek from a filthy beak.

THYLO: Like balcony geezers, they're never pleasers.

ME: The passenger pigeons!

PASSENGER PIGEONS: Hey Robert, Bumblebee is supposed to be yellow. Way to go, dummy!

ME: Ugh, it's just an underpainting guys. If you glaze over a blue underpainting with certain yellows you can-

PASSENGER PIGEONS: Oh my God! Nooooooobody cares. Not even the dog.

THYLO: I'm not a dog! I'm a Thylacine. I'm not even remotely related to a dog!

ME: Really? You kind of look like a dog, though?

THYLO: I'm just a good example of convergent evolution, like a dolphin and a shark. I think you're more closely related to a dog than I am.

ME: That's fascinating.

PASSENGER PIGEONS: Why are you making this Michael Bay painting. Nobody likes those movies.

ME: A lot of people like those movies. But this painting is a commission.

PASSENGER PIGEONS: This isn't original. You're not original!

ME: Hmm, birds and mountains and beautiful women are probably the most common subjects for artists. But you wouldn't say I'm unoriginal if I painted birds, mountains or women.

PASSENGER PIGEONS: Dumb argument. Dumb argument. Why don't you make up your own characters?

ME: Michelangelo didn't write the Bible. Botticelli didn't invent Pagan mythology. Artists have always just been some kind of illustrator or decorator.

PASSENGER PIGEONS: False, false, FALSE! Have you ever read a book about art history before.

ME: I've read many books about-

PASSENGER PIGEONS: You have nothing important to say with your art. Why don't you paint something important!?

ME: I really hate those pigeons, Thylo.

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Extinct Thylo

Everything Will Be Okay

Acrylic on aluminum-mounted photograph, 2014, 20"x16"

THYLO: Hey Robert, what's wrong?

ME: Just a little deflated.

THYLO: Why?

ME: I saw some terrible things that were written about my work. It was kind of depressing.

THYLO: Have thicker skin.

ME: The harder I work the thinner my skin gets. It's just become so hard, Thylo.

THYLO: Bahahaaha, Hard? Oh wow. Do you have any self-awareness at all? Do you have any idea what's going on in the world? Being an artist is a privilege and a choice.

ME: Some say you don't choose art, art chooses you.

THYLO: Sure. Fine. Whatever. But don't you remember what Jimmy Dugan said in A League of Their Own?

ME: There's no crying in baseball?

THYLO: No, the other quote.

ME: Avoid the clap?

THYLO: No Robert, he said it's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard then everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.

THYLO: Thanks Thylo.

ME: Now enough of this insecure, narcissistic whining. Get back to work.

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Extinct Dodo

Romantic Existentialism With Dodo

Acrylic on aluminum-mounted photograph, 2015, 20"x16"

DODO: Hey Robert. What are you doing out here?

ME: Just taking a break. Doing a bit of plein-air painting.

DODO: Well what are you looking at?

ME: Dodo, I'm looking at the great adventure that awaits us just beyond the horizon. A place where all of history is witnessed and all the mysteries of the universe are revealed. I'm looking at a speck of light in the heart of darkness, a grain of joy in the abyss of suffering, and a moment of calm in the hurricane of violence. I'm looking at the defeat of inequality, the death of injustice, and the triumph of rationalism. I'm looking at the exiled ghost of spiritual poverty wandering past the garden of redemption. I'm looking at a cup of water from the well of forgiveness and an island of sobriety torn from the Pangaea of opiates. I'm looking at hard work dancing with ethics in the ballroom of merit. I'm looking at the hypocrite and the righteous, the humble and the self-righteous, betrothed at the altar of compassion. I'm looking at an oasis of freedom in a desert of oppression, and a scarlet rose of happiness in a muddy swamp of depression. I'm looking at the injury of nature mercifully healed by the power of the common good, and the appetite of greed satiated by the honor of civility and personal responsibility. I'm looking at the victory of empathy and decency over the empire of apathy and intolerance. I'm looking at the courtship of trust between Gilgamesh and Humbaba, David and Goliath, Lions and Lambs, all resting in the warm fields of peace. I'm looking at Truth grasping to a leaf that floats down a river of deafening noise. I'm looking at the tribal infection of the human condition and the transcendent remedy for its soul. I'm looking at the noble vessels of good battling the giant kraken of evil, far from the rocky shores of relativism. I'm looking at the thin vestibule between fate and free-will, and the insurmountable precipice of misfortune conquered only by the winged chariot of destiny. I'm looking at the remnants of hope in a valley of despair and the warm fires of existentialism at the end of the long hero's journey. Simply put, I'm looking at the eternal meadow of love.

DODO: What in God's name are you blabbering on about? Are you painting a meadow?

Me: No, I'm painting a tree that has chickens growing on it.

DODO: Why does the tree have chickens growing on it.

ME: Because it's a poultry.

DODO: . . . You're spending too much time alone.

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