I have often been very isolated. I grew up in a rural community. A strange kid and the son of immigrants, I had a hard time fitting in. Eventually, I became obsessed with the enmity, and how the fixation warped me. Often in my art I am the enemy, and I am beset by the enemy. The scene-compilations tell stories, ask questions, and make statements about life and about myself.
“These Fearful Transformations” speaks of affliction, enmity, isolation, and addiction, and how these powers can warp the human mind. Therefore, loss of innocence (and the search to regain that innocence) figures prominently throughout. Specifically, the experiences and reality of this force as it degrades a human being and leaves something else in its place. Something less than human. I speak as an intimate of this phenomenon.
Two major subhuman transformations predominate in the work. The first class (which can often move a man downwards and into the second class) can be generalized as being a human to victim transformation. For example experiencing some trauma, a man or woman might find that his or her humanity (that is, his or her characteristic dreams, aspirations, and predilections) becomes subsumed under the mind’s ever-intensifying identification as victim. A mind broken by victimization often losses its ability to imagine anything beyond its tormentor, its fear, and its hopelessness, and so ceases to grow. It is an agonizing form of dehumanization. Multiple Sclerosis broke me for many years, and I surrendered all my hopes and dreams to the disease. One scene tells it by showing a transformed Gregor Samsa, in hiding, watching his family who appear as shadows against the wall. With disease, only acceptance allows us to move beyond the disease and feel human, again, but acceptance doesn’t always come, and it never comes easy. This work coincides with the appearance of my MS symptoms. This leads me to the second class of subhuman: the monster.
As I have related, enmity became a preeminent fixture of my mind early on. I imbibed of hate and envy every day, almost every moment. This maladaption is so horrifying because of its insidious manner of operation. Although it still hurts every bit as much as that grief experienced by the victim-mind, it can soothe and motivate through delusions of power through fantasies of vengeance. Grief is a passive type of hurt, but hate moves and anger strengthens. Suddenly we’ve shielded our genuine human hurt in bladed armor plating. But it is like wearing an iron maiden as a suit of armor. Soon the powerlessness returns, and one warps all the worse for it.
Littered throughout the work are images symbolizing these transformations, the confusion, despair, and conflict of the dissonance of transformation, as conscience, id, resilience and trauma collide and grind inside the psyche.
A few images depict something else, though, something good. Even sacred. By this I mean the imagination, the creative intellect. One such scene depicts Treebeard carrying a small hobbit safely on his shoulder. It is a specific nod to Tolkien, and there is a very personal reason for that. However, more than that it is a statement about the imagination, how it can serve as protector and friend. During this nightmare phase of my life, I rediscovered how stories could heal us, could buffer our thoughts and kindle our fading humanity. But storytelling is far from the whole of the imagination’s magic. The imagination is where our humanity is rooted. It’s the imagination that can allow a mind to turn the fear and lust and hatred that torment it into strength, wisdom, and understanding. Ultimately then the message is that, though the world can transform whole human beings into little more than victims or monsters, hope lives in the imagination. That only the imagination, where dreams and compassion are born and sustained, can do more than transform: it can sublimate.
See more of Chris’s work on Deviant Art.