The sad disaster of BP’s Gulf Oil Spew affected me so much that I created a piece of statement art – a not so gentle reminder of the seemingly endless ability of humans to delude ourselves.
In the painting’s initial stages, I thought of one of art’s most powerful statement pieces – Guernica, Picasso’s masterful reaction to the Nazi bombing of the Spanish city in 1937.
As the oil catastrophe played out in the media, viewers were confronted daily with a stream of disturbing photographs. One image that kept popping into my mind was that of tar balls. The thought of hundreds of these black blobs washing up on beaches became a compelling picture that ultimately led to the central theme I sought – The Tar Baby.
The story of the Tar Baby is well known in American literature through the writing of author Joel Chandler Harris. In his popular Uncle Remus series, Harris drew on old African-American songs and folklore to write about the foibles of human nature.
In Br’er Rabbit and the Tar Baby, the trickster Br’er Fox takes a lump of tar and puts clothes on it. He intends to fool Br’er Rabbit but ends up getting tricked himself.
There is a lesson in the Tar Baby that still rings true today. In our stubborn will to continue an increasingly unsustainable lifestyle, we end up fooling ourselves.
The Tar Baby and nineteen other new works will be on exhibition at Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg.