Monday, June 2, 2014

My first favorite artist is dead

When I was about thirteen, I found out that I loved art and image making it was going to be a big deal for me. For the first time in my young life, I a felt direction. I'd think to myself, "I could do this forever". But first... I needed a favorite artist, right. It doesn't matter as an adult, but as a kid it helps you figure out where you stand in life and then you can grow from there.  I was a thirteen year old and I needed a favorite artist to guide my way.

I had heard about Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo. However, they were a little too flowery for me and what's with all of that religion? I was also told about this Pablo Picasso guy, but to say " I don't get it" was far too much work for me at the time. Why would I want to take the time to learn about why I should like it. I needed something to stop me in my tracks.  I was a secular American teenage boy and I needed someone special. It was about this time, that my cousin told me about H.R. Giger.

At this time, there was no internet to show me what H.R. Giger's work looked like or how big or small it was. He could only described the work to me. He told me about the figures melded with machines and used this new art making tool called an "airbrush" to make realistic machine people. There was nothing else that needed to be said. I was on board with this artist, sight-unseen and I hadn't even seen his design work on Alien yet.

The suggested volume was called H.R.Giger's Biomechanics. Only available through special order, I was going to have to wait 6-8 weeks to satisfy my curiosity and it took the full 8 weeks to get it. I paid for it with the first check I ever wrote (about $80). This was a big deal. Under the memo portion of the check I wrote 'H.R. Giger', because I thought that was what was done for this kind of thing.

When it arrived I was stunned. The book was huge and to this very day it still refuses to fit on any bookshelf. I really remember being fascinated by the cover but also feeling anxiety about the expense of the book and even the content. I remember thinking to myself after bringing it home, "what have I done?"

That's not creative embellishment. I really was slightly frightened of what was inside. I had never seen art so dark (figuratively and literally), sexual, demonic, technical, illustrative, and just crazy.  It was everything a socially awkward teenage boy could ask for. It was inspiring, frightening, funny, and thought provoking. The images in this book slapped my brain and could not be unseen. I was a changed boy.

I especially enjoyed showing this book to friends and even family to see they're perplexed looks as they struggled to understand it. I didn't totally understand it, but I came to find that understanding is not a prerequisite for art. What I learned from his work is that art can exist to thrill and that is all. It shouldn't have to explain 'why is it this way?', 'how can it be?' or even the dreaded 'I don't get it'. 

Maybe there's nothing to get and maybe there's a deep analogy of humanity. In the end it doesn't matter. There was a shock to my system the day I brought that book home. I was forever changed when I saw that insane man's imagery. I never actually ever wanted to meet H.R. Giger in person, but his work stuck with me as the first artist to ever become "my favorite".

Thanks, H.R.

H.R. Giger