Thursday, March 11, 2010

There are monsters, and there are MONSTERS

When I was looking for a caricature to write the last paper on, I was struck by the images of The Seven Deadly Sins portrayed by Paul Cadmus. I feel like these images are also comparable to Burn’s journal, Party Animals.

Paul Cadmus’s work involves satiric, sensual imagery often painted with a medium called egg tempera. His style falls into the category of magic realism, where illogical scenarios are inserted into an otherwise rational scene.

Cadmus’s Seven Deadly Sins are real monsters compared to Beard’s animals. Cadmus’s monsters are not portrayed committing acts of gluttony and corruption; their physiognomy: dysfunctional bloated limbs, over exaggerated musculature, extra eyes, skin oozing off, stomachs ripping at the seams, hideous claws and teeth are in themselves symbols of human failings. Their structures defeat their purpose. Lust for instance is too aggressive to be remotely attractive, her makeup is gaudy and almost clownish, and her exaggerated vagina seems like gapping wound. One is disgusted, horrified, intrigued by their forms, however like the animal imagery used by Beard and Nast we can relate to these creatures. They process enough similarity to the human physic that we can read their message and relate to them on some level. Indeed, they are so grotesque one wonders if the artist is playing off societies' condemnation and fears regarding these sins. For, it is human nature to process some sort of lust, greed, and sloth, but not to the excess of Cadmus’s creations.

Paul Cadmus is also similar to Beard, in that their art bridges a link between caricature (social criticism) and high art. Both are skilled artist able to render both humans and animals in a very realistic way. However, the subject matter, Beard’s bears gorging on melons and Cadmus’s erotic, sometimes homosexual, themes create disgust, discomfort, and even censorship in their audience. The subject matter that these two artists chose to pursue caused their art to be challenged and question, consequentially pushing the boundaries and broadening the definition of high art.

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