Mark Ryden’s paintings first came to my attention about eight years ago … He is one of the top contemporary American painters working today.
I was immediately captivated by the sickly sweet cast of characters coupled with a healthy dose of the dark and surreal.
His imagery speaks to our modern sensibility in a mysterious way. Ryden captures our dark sides and holds them hostage by smothering his macabre imagery with confectioner’s sugar. His paintings hold you there while you deal with their mental sticky mess.
Images of little girls in frilly dresses, bunny rabbits and tea parties juxtaposed with blood, meat and babies.
In 2009, he painted “Incarnation” – a portrait of a barefoot girl donning a “meat” dress standing in a rose garden … Hmmm … wonder where Lady Gaga got her inspiration for the raw beef dress she wore to the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards?
Abe Lincoln and Jesus make frequent appearances in Ryden’s bizarro world.
They are, of course, cultural icons in and of themselves.
Some of his paintings are rather controversial … But I suppose that is the role of the Artist in society …
On deeper analysis, Ryden’s glossy sugary sweet images of children (mostly girls) could be paralleled with current society’s obsession with youth. And all the meat? Maybe Ryden is making the point that because we are so obsessed with our bodies, we are like pieces of meat. The animals? To me, animals always symbolize innocence and a total lack of self-consciousness. And what about Lincoln and Jesus? I think both serve to remind us to look beyond what is skin-deep. Lincoln is well known for having been quite ugly. Jesus? Although vanity isn’t one of the seven deadly sins, it is undoubtedly frowned upon.
Whatever the meaning behind his paintings, Ryden’s work is always a feast for the eyes and a riddle for the brain.
(images via Mark Ryden)