Wednesday, January 30, 2013

New Art from Joe, "Cancer"

I just finished a new painting/drawing.  It is entitled "Cancer".  I started the piece by applying watercolor washes to a piece of cold press illustration board, the nice thick stuff. Then, started adding detail with a Koh-i-noor Rapidograph pen. Came back with some colored pencil, and some more pen. The picture was originally 24 X 30 inches, but I did not like some areas, so cropped it to the final size of 15 X 15 inches. This may sound crazy, but it was not really unusual for me, as I have done this same thing many times. Sometimes, the entire image just does not work for me, but there may be something salvageable. Anyway, in this case, I thought it was appropriate that I cut away a large portion of a drawing called Cancer. To me, this was similar to the way in which we often try to treat cancer, continuously cutting it away, but often not getting it all. Maybe this was a dark topic, I don't know. Many people tell me that my art is dark, but I don't usually feel that way about it. However, this one is not really happy and is about the insidious growth of cancer both physically in our bodies and metaphorically in our society.

Cancer, by Joe MacGown

Some people have told me that they think the "growths" in this image look rather happy, instead of appearing to be devious, insidious, angry creatures. Now that I think about it, if cancer could be personified, would that being (or creature) feel bad about doing what it does? Probably not. Do parasites feel bad about feeding on something that nourishes them? Do they feel at all? We as humans often eat meat, and even express feelings of happiness when devouring a juicy steak. Does that mean we are bad people? Or, does that simply mean we are doing what is natural to us. So, if cancer cells were thoughtful living creatures, why not show them as being happy, or show them with various mixed emotions.  I was not feeling particularly unhappy when drawing this. And, I was not thinking about cancer at the time I was drawing this. However, after I was about halfway through, it suddenly came to me that this could be interpreted as a a cancerous type growth. In fact, the way this drawing spread across the board was cancer-like in its movement. For us humans, as the recipient of a cancerous growth, there can be no worse form of pervasive evil. Cancer strikes down the weak to the strong, with no rhyme or reason. My father died of cancer a few years ago. He lived with me at the time, and I saw first hand what it does to a person. Interestingly, he was an artist, scientist, and musician. Even at the end, he was taking cells from his body to examine under a high powered compound microscope in vain attempts to find some answer.  I guess in the end, this image should be perceived as slightly dark, at least from our human vantage point.

An earlier state of Cancer, before I had cut and cropped large areas away. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Animal Planet Video about crazy ants with Joe MacGown

Well, this is not exactly art related, but comes from my other life as an entomologist.  I was interviewed by the producers of "Infested" on the Animal Planet network for an episode about crazy ants. The show recently aired and will be seen periodically throughout the season. You can also watch the video online at:

Please note that this is not really a scientific show, but in this case is more or less accurate. The format of the show is somewhat strange in that interviews done are of me and the homeowners, but the video at the property is of actors who supposedly look somewhat like us. Kind of strange, but that is how they do it. Anyway, I was on Animal Planet, so that is pretty cool.