art theory

Banished From Language: Why the far right figure in Francis Bacon’s Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion is screaming

Justin Burnett.

bacon01After deciding to write this short piece on the twentieth century painter Francis Bacon, I promptly stopped by the local used bookstore (semi-famous for its relatively extensive “Art Books” section) to see if I could nab a hard copy of Bacon’s work in order avoid the hassle of switching back and forth between Google and Microsoft Word every time I wanted to consider a particular piece (a real hassle, as I’m sure you can imagine). The book I selected was Luigi Ficacci’s Bacon.

It’s a good little introductory overview, focusing primarily on eleven of Bacon’s most popular paintings while including reproductions of his “lesser” works interspersed throughout the text. Ficacci thankfully focuses on the art itself rather than Bacon’s biography, which, as Ficacci himself notes, is easily accessible elsewhere (there is, in fact, a fantastic BBC documentary on YouTube that amply discusses the more salient aspects of Bacon’s biography. It’s free and well-executed. You can watch it below. My purpose here, however, is not to follow or outline Ficacci’s analysis of Bacon’s work (although it is quite interesting and worthy of a read). Ficacci’s thoughts do, however, provide a good point of departure for my own analysis of Bacon’s painting.  (more…)

A Brief Manifesto for the Practicing and Emerging Artist

D. Cay.

  1. Uproot cultural norms. If something is considered “common sense,” then you daultondickeyshould ridicule or satirize it.


  1. Target modesty and decency.


  1. Celebrate obscenity, vulgarity, and cruelty.


  1. Embrace chaos.


  1. Shun “traditional” or “standard” forms or structures. If you don’t want to challenge them too radically, at least tweak them with the aim of upsetting the reader’s, or spectator’s, equilibrium.


  1. Have a point. Art for art’s sake, or strange for strange’s sake, or offensive for offensive’s sake should be treated like television: it’s all right in moderation, but too much will rot your brain.


Ceci n’est pas une pipe: Buddha Jones, a Man Who Strives to Alter Our Perceptions.

Daulton Dickey.


“It’s not a question of reality; it’s a question of our perceptions of these convergences we call ‘reality.’”

If you encountered the man who calls himself Buddha Jones on the street, you’d find little reason to acknowledge him. He’s one of those people who seem to blend in, nondescript in every way, almost generic in appearance.

He’s sitting on a bench in a park a few feet from Lake Michigan, gazing at seagulls. They hop in a sort of chaotic line dance. If they’re following a pattern, it’s indiscernible—at least to someone who doesn’t specialize in ornithology.

“They might be following a pattern,” Buddha says, “at least as far as they’re concerned. [Psychologist B.F.] Skinner found that pigeons will detect patterns even when none exist.” He hisses as he inhales smoke, then sighs as he pushes it out through his nose and mouth. “Those findings extend to people, by the way,” he says. “We’re pattern seekers, and we’ll sometimes find patterns that aren’t there.”

Buddha Jones is one of those people you might know for decades without pegging who he is, without pigeonholing him, without finding patterns, if you will, to enable you to discern cohesion in an otherwise aloof personality. His stories often contradict one another—his father died when he, Buddha, was in his thirties, for example, or he never knew his father; each story he tells, each facet of the life he chooses to share eventually emerges as either a creation or an exaggeration—or a combination of the two.

“People sometimes call writers professional liars,” he says. “That’s bullshit. Writers, and I’m talking about fiction writers here, make shit up, but there’s a difference between a lie and making something up.”

What’s the difference?

“Writing is algorithmic,” he says. “You follow a pattern, replace variables with values you’ve appointed. The point is to entertain or enlighten. Or trick.” He grins. “Or to shock or offend or whatever. To lie is to either avoid consequences, real world consequences, or to illegitimately obtain something, or someone, you want.”

But are the two behaviors mutually exclusive?

“Of course not,” he says. “But a writer sets out to tell a story, for whatever reason, or maybe to play with the notion of storytelling. Look, at the end of the day, a writer’s job is to emulate this hallucination we call ‘reality.’” He curls his fingers in air-quotes whenever he utters the word “reality,” something he never fails to do.

Why does he do that?

“I hate the word,” he says. “‘Reality.’ It misleads people.”

In what way?

“In my experience, people tend to assume ‘reality’ is this objective thing that exists independently of people, that we’re somehow passive participants in this thing we call ‘reality.’”

So then what is it?

“It’s a product of billions of neurons modeling an incomprehensible amount of information every second of every day. Each of us experience ‘reality’ differently because it’s ultimately a product of our brains.”

At this point I make a face without realizing I’d made it.

“You don’t believe me?” he says. “Drop some acid. Or drink some whiskey. These chemicals will literally alter how you experience ‘reality.’ If chemicals affecting your brain alter your experience of ‘reality,’ then isn’t it evidence that ‘reality’ itself is a product of experience?” After a long pause. “Which is itself a product of cognitive processes, of our brains?”

He had picked up a stick while we talked, and now he’s drawing the Mona Lisa in a patch of sand surrounded by grass. The picture would impress you: by utilizing nearby dirt, he shades the woman’s face, creating an almost three-dimensional picture, or a sepia etching.

On finishing the picture, which took only minutes, he tosses the stick aside and slides his boot—khaki work boots—over the picture, leaving tracers of a worn sole where a depiction of a woman’s face once lay. (more…)

Two Brief Thoughts on Van Gogh, Artistic Rebellion, and the Mediocrity of Modern Art

Daulton Dickey.


People romanticize Vincent Van Gogh as an archetypal “starving artist,” a genius who suffered from poverty and anonymity, only to secure a seat in the Western canon after his death. It’s a touching story, one invoked by countless artists who think they’re not receiving the level of recognition they deserve.

vincent-van-gogh---alienated-artistHis work is familiar to us now, and it’s easy to forget that he wasn’t producing popular, “mainstream” faire. He was an avant-garde artist, a man who rejected convention and orthodoxy. His marginalization in his lifetime wasn’t accidental; he knew he was taking risks; he knew he was doing something new and innovative; and he knew people wouldn’t embrace it.

His willingness to sacrifice everything by pursuing a kind of art that flew in the face of convention, his avant-garde approach to painting, his devotion to his vision kept him destitute and alone. He suffered, at least in part, because he refused to conform. He refused to follow convention. He refused to do what everyone else was doing. And, to me, that makes his story more powerful.


Van Gogh’s art was as erratic and idiosyncratic and revolutionary as the man who painted it. In his day, the institutions—the Academy—shunned him, which deepened his despair. Now, the institutions embrace him. He’s part of the Western canon. But they still ridicule his act of lobbing off a chunk of his ear, an act no more deranged or insane than the act of challenging institutions. Artists don’t call the shots. Institutions do. Artists create or diagnose new landscapes or ailments—mental or material—and the institutions choose to accept or negate or ignore them, locking the culture into a state of inertia. Is slicing off a piece of flesh insane when juxtaposed with a handful of people thrusting other humans into desperation or despair, while engaging millions in mind-numbing mediocrity, the kind of mediocrity responsible for sharks in tanks, reality television, and “alternative facts”?

220px-The_Future_of_Art_-_Damien_HirstContemporary art is so vacuous that no one has bothered to name it. It’s produced by hucksters bereft of talent, artists in name only, such as Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons, and marketed by men and women drunk on cash and credit and absorbed in the solipsism of their inflated egos. And it’s easy to understand how their egos ballooned into absurd proportions: by pedaling twaddle to wealthy morons feigning sophistication, these avatars of institution fake the tastes they force feed the masses. Force-feeding this nonsense to the masses, popularizing it, creating and strengthening brands, establishes value in terms of economics. But the value of the “art” itself doesn’t extend beyond the hype and the hyperbole propagated by the tastemakers bent on establishing demand for rubbish no one would want.



10701993_837396766280602_3351579916728916760_nDaulton Dickey is a novelist, poet, and content creator currently living in Indiana. He’s the author of A Peculiar Arrangement of Atoms: Stories, Still Life with Chattering Teeth and People-Shaped Things, and other stories, Elegiac Machinations: an experimental novella, and Bastard Virtues, a novel. Rooster Republic Press will publish his latest novel, Flesh Made World, later this year. Contact him at daultondickey[at]yahoo[dot]com.