Wednesday, December 10, 2008

goosebumps: thomas doyle

thomas doyle, the reprisal, mixed media, 10"x 12" diameter, 2006

thomas doyle, the reprisal, detail

it's no secret that i have a healthy fascination with the macabre. i like things that make me shiver a bit. a healthy case of gooseflesh never hurt anyone. my mother's rather bizarre habit of reading me edward gorey as a child probably helped. she even got me an edward gorey pop-up book. scared the shit out of me, but she seemed to find it engaging. i guess i just didn't get it, but i also used to wonder why as an adult my mom found the pee-wee herman christmas special so entertaining. it wasn't until i watched it again as an adult and saw the opening scene in which pee-wee says that he's having an addition built to the playhouse and opens a door to reveal a room being built out of fruitcakes by heavily oiled construction workers that it dawned on me. my favorite creepy tome my mom would read to me was the edward gorey alphabet book (check this link, great online copy of the whole text), in which each letter is represented by a child who meets an unfortunate end.

when i discovered thomas doyle's mixed media miniatures i felt the same sense of mutant attraction i used to feel scanning through the pages of gorey's morbid alphabet book. there is something beautiful in the stripped bare, painful moments in life, something that is very difficult to describe in words. despite the fact that we all harbor an inherent interest in the darker side of life, we often fear our fascination with grief and loss will be misunderstood. doyle has an uncanny ability to create scenes both disturbing and familiar. these scenes resonate personally with viewers, even though most of us have never had to dig a shallow grave in the woods.

when i first found his site i must have sat and stared for hours. i had to keep viewing and reviewing each image over and over, each time feeling more and more implicated in the scenes. doyle's use of glass to contain the tiny scenes almost acts as a metaphorical seat belt. you feel yourself falling into each scene, getting closer to the emotions that are drawn in the various pieces, and only the device of the protective glass prevents you from full tidal waves of grief, longing or doubt. like an excellent stage director he works with the viewer's heart strings, orchestrating a ballet of disparaging feelings, from hope to isolation and outright fear. doyle explains, "In much the way the mind recalls events through the fog of time, the works distort reality through a warped and dreamlike lens."

thomas doyle, courier, mixed media, 12.5"x14" diameter, 2007

the works, rendered in 1:43 scale, also afford the viewer a sense of power over scenes that one would no doubt feel powerless in were they themselves the figure under glass. in this way we get a chance to spy on the sadder, angrier moments of life - the times when we are helpless and acting on instinct - without a threat of getting hurt. our sense of morbid voyeurism (rampant in a society of crime scene dramas and serial killer fan sites) is gratified in a clinically detached manner; we walk away with clean hands. "Hovering above the glass, the viewer approaches these worlds as an all-seeing eye, looking down upon landscapes that dwarf and threaten the figures within," writes doyle.

contrary to the implied safety of the viewer's position, the intimacy of scale and the inherent beauty of doyle's execution draws the viewer in despite themselves. there is a transition as the viewer approaches the tiny piece, from an inflated sense of security and omniscience, to a shudder of personal resonance. the tiny expressionless figures are a blank canvas on which the viewer can project their own script of emotional responses. not all of doyle's scenes are as dramatic or narrative as say, the reprisal. some of his little worlds seem to capture moments in life that for one reason or another (the way the light refracted off a porch swing, the smell of roses - so saturated that summer) simply haunt the memory, the kind of formative snippets of a life lived that will landscape our dreams over time. doyle says "the works depict the remnants of things past—whether major, transformational experiences, or the quieter moments that resonate loudly throughout a life."

wondrous how such a small artifact can have such a huge impact.

thomas doyle, the occupation, mixed media, 14.5"x18.5"x12.5", 2006


breanne! said...

these are amazing, i can make so many associations that there is no end to my reactions. awesome. good eyes chloe, good eyes.

(are you still having an open call for fenario? i found this and thought of you & your calll...:)

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