31 May 2009

A Scientific Icon.

This request comes from actor, writer, and visual artist, Steve Sweere. Steve asked me to make a painting of Charles Darwin in the style of a Russian Icon. I did that...kind of.
I was thinking about the icon of King Solomon gesturing toward a tiny church suspended in mid-air. In his icon, Solomon is pointing to his truth. He is upholding the Church. In my painting, Darwin gestures toward some half-evolved prehistoric aquatic animals eating one another. This is the carnal truth this version of Darwin is upholding.
I stole this unusual fish-chomping image from the cover of a Penguin Classics edition of Darwin's Origin of Species. The painting on the cover actually shows a much larger scene which includes a short necked dinosaur biting the head off of a long necked dinosaur. Talk about a perfect visual representation of natural selection. I guess we now know why we have no more long necked dinosaurs.
Anyway, I think the style I used for Darwin ended up more Byzantine Slavic than it did Russian. The grotesque aquatic animals are more 19th century Victorian clip art. I did, however, incongruously paint the background red because that translates to "Russian" ... right?
Well, the painting is what it is and I'm happy with it.

Here is my narrative:
Imagine a 19th century Russian monk iconographer who is largely untalented and obsessed with Western scientific thought. He decides he must make a painting of Darwin in an outdated and foreign style. All of his friends in the monastery are confused but try to be encouraging. They hang his odd "science icon" in a corner of their living quarters where no one spends much time. It's by the closet, just above where they keep the hats. One day the Czar comes for a surprise visit and all of the monks are filled with excitement ... but the mood becomes a little uneasy when he notices this icon ...
I'll let you image the rest.

Thank you, Steve!


Steve said...

Hey John,
I love it! everything I could have hoped for and more. I promice to find the perfect corner, by a closet, just above where we keep our vast hat collection - now bring on the Czar!

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