Yesterday, I went to a show of Mark Ryden's paintings at the Frye Art Museum, in Seattle. It was breathtaking! So beautiful, so precise! So wonderfully strange! Wow! If you're anywhere near Seattle, go to this show. It's amazing and, believe it or not, it's free.
Mark Ryden, talking about his work:
In the same spirit as those earlier collectors filling their cabinets of curiosities, I feel compelled to collect quite a variety of things. I draw artistic inspiration from the treasures I find at the flea market. I like old toys, books, photographs, anatomical models, stuffed animals, skeletons, religious statues, and vintage paper ephemera. It is interesting how, from the endless sea of stuff out there, certain things jump out. They evoke a feeling of mystery in me and I am powerfully driven toward them. It is an obsession. I collect, arrange, and display them. Pieces from my collection end up synthesized or juxtaposed in my paintings.
This visual debris from contemporary pop culture contains the specific archetypes that formed my consciousness while living in this particular period in history. I often find archetypes in old children's books and toys, so these things make up a large part of my collection. I am attracted to things that evoke memories from childhood.
It is only in childhood that contemporary society truly allows for imagination. Children can see a world ensouled, where bunnies weep and bees have secrets, where "inanimate" objects are alive. Many people think that childhood's world of imagination is silly, unworthy of serious consideration, something to be outgrown. Modern thinking demands that an imaginative connection to nature needs to be overcome by "mature" ways of thinking about the world. Human beings used to connect to life through mystery and mythology. Now this kind of thinking is regarded as primitive or naive. Without it, we cut ourselves off from the life force, the world soul, and we are empty and starving.
I believe in letting imagination thrive in my art. I am not afraid of nostalgia or sentiment. I value taking the time to make a painting "beautiful." I want to breathe life into my paintings.