I hung a show today! It’s down at First Presbyterian Church of Orlando. I believe it will be up until sometime in October. If you’re in town, check it out!
What are these prints about? I get that question a lot. And it’s a good question, too. What’s that weird zombie-thing that your wife is looking at? Are you eating that raccoon? What is coming out of her forehead? What in the world does “The Home Economy” even mean anyway? Give me a few minutes and I’ll try to answer a couple of these.
The short answer to the first question is that they are about my life. My family and work life in particular. Where one of these lives ends and the other begins is pretty blurry sometimes. I spend a great deal of time teaching about what I love to do. I love to make artwork. When I’m not doing it, I’m often thinking about doing it. Of course making artwork hasn’t really paid the bills over the years; or at least not most of them. So I teach studio art and at least get to be in my field–or closer to my field–a lot more than if I worked a 9-5 and then pretended that I would “do my art” in my “spare” time. The bills are big because I have a big family and feeding everyone is a big expense. So a lot of the economy of my home is concerned with food: buying it, raising it, catching it, preparing it, cooking it, eating it and cleaning up after it.
My life is also filled with chickens. I love those birds. I don’t know why, but they are really, really cool to have around. I like watching them and raising them. I like getting new ones and watching them fit into the flock. I like to eat their eggs. I like to eat them when the time comes. The thing is, my chickens aren’t pets; they’re livestock. Livestock that I care for very much, but still, they have a purpose in our home economy. In the meantime, I give them a very good home, full of the outdoor life: sunshine, bugs, weeds, lizards, bugs, toads, bugs, kitchen scraps, and… predators. That last part may not be a part of the good life, but it is part of real life for my chickens. They may not like it, but I can’t (and don’t want to) exterminate all the hostile animals in the neighborhood. In fact, the roosters are very well equipped to take care of their girls. They seem to revel in their role of protector. They excel at sounding the alarm and even fighting if need be. None of my roosters have had to yet, but it’s not uncommon for a rooster to fight a predator to the death if it will give his hens a chance to escape.
Another, perhaps underrepresented member of my home economy are my goats. I have a very small herd of dairy goats that I keep for milk. They are wonderful animals, very much like pets in their intelligence. Watching them go through pregnancy and birth has been wonderful for my family to experience. However, it is a struggle to keep them economically; they give us milk and babies to sell, but how to balance their cost with how much they contribute to our family is difficult to reconcile.
In addition to keeping chickens and goats, I’m pretty fond of my small flock of Muscovies. Like the chickens, they are for eggs and meat. They do not play as large a role as the chickens or goats in my home economy, but I love them!
Wild animals also contribute to our home economy. Above I mentioned that sometimes I catch my food. Fishing for us is fun, but it is also for food. We aren’t starving without it, but we do appreciate the variety that wild caught fish provides. They are certainly more unpredictable than either raising my own food or just going to the grocery store, but wild caught fish provide a sense of satisfaction for my younger sons (who do most of the fishing) in that they feel like they have contributed to the good of the family by providing the occasional dinner.
I’m using the word “provide” knowingly. Whatever we receive we understand that it is Providence that has given it to us. God provides for our family in giving us work, He provides in the form of our livestock and He provides us with wild game as well. We are thankful for all of it.
But what are these prints about? I see my artwork as a kind of conversation. I’m speaking to you and to myself in all of my work. In these pieces the characters (my wife and I) are speaking to each other in a sort of sidelong way. We’re having our thoughts and keeping them to ourselves, but still they are juxtaposed visually so that we have to compare the content of the thoughts. (I believe my wife is thinking while I am speaking.) Either way there is conflict in these prints; literal conflict between animals on the right hand side and figurative conflict on the left. There are wild and domestic animals, work to be done at home in the form of chores, work to be done away from home in the form of artwork, different people, different perspectives, different priorities. The Home Economy is about synthesizing all of them. It’s a dynamic project and it is in constant flux with hundreds of moving parts.
There’s more going on here, but I thought that would give you a little to go on. But this is artwork, not an essay. Look at it with your eyes and your mind.