Ideas of Order – 2009
Ideas of Order – Artist Statement
These prints are about the different systems of order by which human societies manage life. Human societies in every age are organized according to ideas of order. How goods are produced and sold, who holds wealth and who is poor, how conflicts are resolved, how authority is established and behaves, how power is held and transferred, how religious and philosophical beliefs are open or imposed, how laws and mores are applied, how the one and the many are balanced, how love, desire and sex are nurtured, controlled or repressed, how knowledge and information are communicated or kept secret, how creativity and interpretation are allowed or forbidden; these and more are the systems of order by which all eras organize themselves.
My Ideas of Order prints trade on this situation. There are simple, iconic, direct—ordered. They are carved hand stamp prints, the material of children’s elementary school art projects or of official government stamps signifying legal authority. The images are borrowed from compressed and loaded images found in newspapers, advertisements, instruction illustrations, religious tracts, medieval icons, political campaigns and more. They explore different systems of order, mixing the languages of reportage with the languages of symbolism, allegory, cartoons and propaganda. I hope to create images that slip back and forth between fast over-simplifications and loaded poetic icons that imply more than they directly say. I hope to make images that seem at first to take sides with a quick punch in the eye, like a one-liner, but that, if given time, actually do not quite take sides so much as they put forward how things are.
One more thing. These prints belong to a larger enterprise called, simply, the “eraser prints.” They were called that initially because each stamp was carved from a large white eraser. But soon the metaphoric meaning became part of this work. For while the images are literally made out of objects called “erasers,” the etymology of the verb, “to erase” comes from the Latin for “out” + “to scrape, scratch,” which in some early examples was a variant of “arace,” meaning to “uproot.” Every artist wants his or her images to make a difference. Every artist knows that change cannot be brought by art, though perhaps art can assist in creating an awareness or insight that could be part of change. But the hope that prints about social problems made by erasers might, given their imagery, actually help to erase, uproot, scratch out violence, hatred, greed—that hope is, surely, as naïve as the children’s elementary school art projects. Still, we have not given up educating our children in the faith that will grow into happy and contributing adults.