Monday, September 21, 2009
Beautiful and Terrible: Ray Caesar
by Ray Caesar,
Giclee on paper.
Taken from the artist's website.
"Sisters" by Ray Caesar depicts two young women (said to be sisters) in what seems to be a time period or situation with sort of a 15th century France feel, what with the powdered faces, powdered hair, delicate features and fine clothing and jewelry. They seem to be conversing about something mildly amusing and yet mildly snide, like gossip or perhaps judgments. From what we can see of the room it is ornate, with fancy wallpaper, solid columns and beautiful flowers. These are high society women, doing as high society women do; looking beautiful, being highly decorated, and making snarky comments. And oh- they both have horrific alien monster hands.
What I love about this piece (and all of Ray Caesar's work) is that he paints as if he was a French or English Romantic era painter: All the realistic but soft-edge details, the crisp attention to fabric and backgrounds, the light airy subject matter. He paints that classic beauty that most people nowadays have seen so much of that they hardly acknowledge it. He almost lets you walk right on by. Almost. But every piece has a kicker- alien or monster parts, wiry robot legs, too many limbs- something that jumps out with far more power than a painting of an alien or a monster or a robot ever would on its own. It's that contrast- that comfort you're almost led into before the gruesome element registers that gets me every time.
Why the monster hands? My first feeling is that it's a commentary on the rich and beautiful, a look into their insides, their intentions and their worth. You can see their beautiful faces, their expensive jewelry, their lovely dresses, ad also their hearts, woven into alien tendrils that meet in vicious, threatening points at the claw. But perhaps if it isn't malice, it's human nature. Maybe Caesar is saying that for all this beauty, there always is and always will be ugliness underneath, somewhere hidden underneath the splendor. Beauty is alluring and equally (if not more so) dangerous.