Though most of these pieces were created during the pandemic, the reference to contamination in the title actually refers to the mixed media theme; elements of one medium drift into the next; biological combines with the mechanical, digital with analog, even oil with water. A high school art teacher once told me that my pieces shouldn’t work, but they do. Not in an academic sense, but complimenting how combining disparate materials in the way that I was already doing should lead to pieces collapsing or combusting, but I have managed to avoid that.
Permanence is not something I often strive for in art. I find that the way a piece evolves or decays can be part of the art itself.
“Grendel” once had more bones in its construction, but gravity made its opinion known, and the sculptural guitar became a sleeker and more striking piece because of it. One of the most recent pieces on display, “Yellow Nightmare: The Weeping Woman” might sum up the exhibit the best, because it contains the other half of the title. It is my photography scanned, digitally warped, printed out, cut up, reassembled, and painted over. I was experimenting with new blends of paints that perhaps were not meant to be blended, and even with several coats of fixative spray, an oily residue still remained. It remained like a feverish sweat after a night terror. Maybe one day it will dry, maybe it won’t. The old adage is that if one stares into the abyss, the abyss stares back. I could have made a good title out of a variation on that, with eyes such a recurring theme – look around you, they’re staring at you from every wall. But these newest pieces don’t just stare back. If you touch them, they will leave their mark on you. If you talk to them – who knows?
It is difficult to write a synopsis of these pieces. Of the photographic prints, some are multiple pieces overlapping, some are modified by analog means such as melting film cells or re-photographing projections of images, some by digital software, and many by various combinations thereof. One trait they do share is that, with the exception of “The Voyeur of Utter Destruction as Beauty” and “The Poster Child” (which are traditional collage pieces with minor digital manipulation), they all began life as my own photographs. “I Am” is the closest to a traditional painting in the exhibit, but there are elements like plaster and steel wool mixed into the paint to texturize it. It is flanked by two pieces that began as guitar necks. One regained its functionality by grafting it to bones, the other became a conceptual piece as much through subtraction as addition.
Nightmares was not a planned theme so much as a consistent one. A history of vivid dreams and nightmares has always informed my work, and “nightmarish” is one of descriptions I have heard most frequently of my art. The four visceral, sweating, collages were a new style I began less than two weeks before the show started, and ironically the only planned nightmare element did not come to fruition. Due to their last-minute nature, “Red Nightmare” and “Black Nightmare” were simply not finished in time. But they are out there, and their absence leaves their sibling piece as a reminder to (as I might say on the radio) tune in next time.
Adam Bursack is a (mostly) self-taught artist and photographer from Fargo, ND. He is also a writer, musician, and radio DJ.
In memory of Carthal “Skip” Jones, Emily Wheelwright, and Erik Susag
Yellow Nightmare: The Weeping Woman
The Earth is on Fire
Eyes That Will Never be Forgotten