ARTIST CHRIS ROBERTS'S WEIRDLY DARK REACTIONS
by Thomas M. Sipos, managing editor [May 19, 2011]
[HollywoodInvestigator.com] Chris Roberts was among those who displayed their works at the 2011 World Horror Convention's art show in Austin, Texas, held from April 28 - May 1. What qualifies an artist to present his work at a horror convention? It helps if your work has dark overtones.
Roberts describes his work as, "Weird/dark or dark/weird, but always with a hint of humor. I try not to take my work -- or myself -- too seriously. I think that my work fairly successfully embodies who I am as a person."
Apart from the dark overtones, Roberts's work draws upon pop culture, politics, and religion for inspiration -- or rather, politics and religion after it's been filtered through pop culture.
"My work is driven by random images that get stuck in my head," says Roberts. "I tweak and tinker, and eventually 'translate' to a physical surface. After the internal head work, my focus turns to the materials and process that will be needed for the image to successfully 'transfer' from internal grey matter to external wood matter. Think of it as an extended photographic process where my brain is the camera, my hands the printer."
Regarding those materials, Roberts says, " 'Mixed media' is a generic enough phrase for what I use. More specifically (and always subject to change, depending on the piece) acrylic paint, spray paint, found paper, found objects, pencil, markers, and oil crayons, usually on wood -- preferably found wood.
"Lately I've been piling the aforementioned materials into Photoshop, messing with them, spitting them out as low quality color prints, and pasting them to wood. Handmade meets Mac-made -- but trying hard to blur the fairly thick line between."
The images that "get stuck" in Roberts's head appear to originate from pop culture and current affairs, with political overtones, but Roberts denies attempts to send a message. "Occasionally my work is informed by political, social, or mass media issues, but from a knee-jerk reaction, not a desire to influence whoever views those pieces.
"I see something on the news that alarms me, pisses me off, makes me giggle, impacts me. I create an image based on that reaction. I put it out for the viewer to observe that reaction, possibly experiencing one of their own. The viewer has the opportunity to react to both my reaction and the focus of the piece itself."
According to Roberts, his works confront the viewer with two questions: How do I feel about Robert's reaction to XYZ? How do I feel about my reaction to XYZ?
"Their answer to the second question tends to drive their answer to the first question. I'm not trying to change minds, just presenting my reaction, unapologetically."
Among Robert's works on display at the World Horror Con were protraits of Michael Jackson (see above) and Tony the Tiger, and a set of three portraits (of Kim Il Sung, Jesus, and Ahmadinejad).
Of the Jackson piece, Robert says, "After Michael Jackson died, media and public reaction was first shocked and devastated, then positive and glowing and fond and saintly. My reaction to that reaction (not to his death) led to the creation of that piece, King of Nothing.
"Let us not forget that [Jackson] was a freak. Let us not forget that he may have been a little too friendly with the children. Talented? Yes! Revolutionary? Yes! Hyper-dysfunctional, creepy, fucking loon? Indubitably!
"King of Nothing is my visual frustration that everybody conveniently forgot all of the bad (no pun intended), eccentric (not a strong enough word) and possibly damaging (definitely to himself if not to others) bells and whistles that made him tick and tock and turn."
The same process informs Robert's other works on display. "The Tony the Tiger -- I always enjoy turning religious iconography on its silly head. The Jesus, Kim Jong Il and Ahmadinejad pieces -- collectively titled We Three Kings -- were created and have always been displayed together, but listed for sale as a set or individually. I sold the Jesus Shaves piece at the con, breaking the set."
Roberts is a native of Des Moines, Iowa, which is where his work has been mostly displayed. He has a BA in graphic design from Des Moines's Grand View College. He's designed book covers for Another Sky Press, Orange Alert Press, and PS Publishing.
What advice can Roberts offer to aspiring artists? "I still consider myself an aspiring artist, and 'success' is as tricky a word as 'fame.' But since you asked...make stuff. If the stuff that you make makes you happy, then you're doing it correctly. If the stuff that you make doesn't make you happy, then try again. And if the stuff that you make doesn't make others happy...who fucking cares? Personally, not professionally. Your personal work is just that...yours!"
Roberts has a website -- DeadClownArt.com -- and a Twitter feed: @deadclownart.
Read the Hollywood Investigator's coverage of past World Horror Conventions in 2004, 2005 and 2008.