Location: Carbondale, Illinois
Date: January 2011
Description: studio sketches, recycled 8.5″ X 11″ printer paper
“i feel sorry for the human people”
“LO SAD PENGUINO”
“i changed all my light bulbs but it melted anyways”
These are the first penguins I painted. Sketched out in Sarah Lewison’s living room/studio outside Carbondale, Illinois. Late in the evening, I penciled and water colored them on paper from Sarah’s recycle bin. And taped them to the wall and snapped a couple of photos.
I had just returned to the Dis-United States from Taller Imagen Tiempo in Nicaragua depressed, bummed out. Taller Imagen Tiempo is an art residency, a performance, and an archive initiated by my friend Ernesto Salmeron. During my time at the Taller, we were very productive, intensely productive and socially volatile; we argued a lot. I left Nicaragua planning a graffiti tear. Somewhere I started crashing. My experiences in Nicaragua left me with sensation that positive social change was impossible. It was difficult to continue to work. I was staying with my mother, Sarah Lewison, in southern Illinois. I was trying to work on a graffiti piece of a businessman hiking up a graph of the CO2 emissions. A visual representation of economic growth, carbon emissions, and neoliberal idealized ambition. I kinda bogged down and could not finish it; not at all. I got an email from Fraser, another collaborator at Taller Imagen Tiempo asking how the graffiti project was going. I just said to Sarah, “I am just going to paint sad penguins until I can do something else.” I decided I would just paint sad penguins. The figure of these penguins was inspired by an accidental reading of one of Salmeron’s abstract paintings on the walls of the Taller. I painted 8 or 10 and stuck them up on the wall together. They looked and felt kinda of amazing. And I felt a little better. I painted sad penguin that evening and taped them up on the wall. I felt better. They looked really interesting, very intriguing, funny. I experimented with giving them sarcastic and ironic word bubbles inspired by Alan Moore’s Weeping Gorilla and, probably, Opus from Berkeley Breathed’s Outland and Bloom County. I decided I would go on a penguin graffiti tear. I felt good after painting them. I turned to other work.