Text in Art (or, What an unwelcome horse taught me about art)

Horse painting © 1997 J. Thomson, all rights reserved

Ever since my early painting classes as an undergraduate in art school, I have been interested in incorporating text in my work. Using text in contemporary artwork is nothing new, and some artists use text exclusively. I’ve been inspired by the works of Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, Cy Twombly, Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol, and the Dada collages of Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, to name a few artists who used text in some of their artworks. I am intrigued by the possibility of adding additional layers of meaning to a piece through the use of text. Such uses have the potential to support the main idea of a piece, or contradict it; either usage is valid. The use of text in visual artwork can also serve to make the piece more accessible to the general public.  I think of it as a way of giving the viewer another handle to hold onto when grappling with the piece.

One of my early painting professors, Erin Palmer, offered a critique of a text painting I made as an undergraduate by asking whether the painting could be successful if the text wasn’t readable (ie, if it were in another language, or if it were illegible text). Continue reading

Word hand (1995)

Word hand, 1995 © J. Thomson all rights reserved This was more of a graphic design piece than a drawing per se, but it’s in my sketchbook, so in it goes! The challenge here was to make the story end at the same time I ran out of room in the drawing. Pretty successful, considering I was making it up as I wrote it.

Here’s a transcription of the text:

“This is the finger of the hand that is controlled by the muscle that receives its impulse from the nerve that is connected to another nerve in the arm and another and another in the shoulder that is connected to the nerve in the spinal column that makes up the central core of the nervous system, and is connected to the brain that receives the impulses from the nerves detecting the senses and sending the impulses to the brain which receives them and processes them and perceives them as light and dark or hard and soft or hot and cold or loud or silent or bitter or sweet or mild or stank and dictates an appropriate response: jerk away from the burn, or dilate the eye or squint or tap the hard surface or pet the softness or bask in the warmth or feel the chill or deafen the ear or strain to hear the silence or taste the salty cum or the hard sweetness or smile at the memory provoked by the smell of rose or cringe at the funk, the cells of the folds that make the lobes of the halves of the brain that possesses its owner and makes him feel horny or sad or her feel wet and pouty and engorges the muscles of the penis to make it erect so it may stiffen and implant the seed of its neighbor, the testicle, into the womb or ass or mouth or belly in spurts of utter excitement and enjoyment or engorge the muscular wall of vagina, ass, belly, or hand to tighten the grip on the other’s virile member to receive its load of milky white creamy frothy salty cum into the womb, mouth, belly, ass, hand, back, face, bathtub, bed, Kleenex, bathroom stall, underpants, jeans, car back-seat, projection booth, couch, floor, sink, hair, or pillow or wall which it may explode and land on, or if in the body of another, dissolve, conceive, melt and run, or swallow and be ingested only to be digested and processed into heat and energy and movement and the waste shat out of the body into the water in the toilet into the pipes of the sewer system into lakes and rivers of the Earth or conceive with the female egg and divide through meiosis and mitosis into another living being, or be caught and frozen in a jar until needed for fertilization of another’s egg possibly years later and continents apart that may conceive, divide, fee, grow, be born, learn, grow for years, learn to write and pick up a pen and begin to move its hand…”