mysterium tremendum

Thomas Macker, "Father and Son"

As an artist I essay to make contact with the sublime, the numinous, the mysterium tremendum. – Thomas Macker

I remember viewing Thomas Macker’s photographs at his show, “For All Our Failings,” at the Art Association earlier this year. I didn’t know how to interact with the work at the time. People were milling about, drinking wine, we were at an opening for god’s sake. Actually paying attention to the art is beside the point at such events. Some of the images stuck with me: the mushroom and knife in yellow tint, the “dusk to dawn” road sign in front of the Tetons, the gold jewelry laid out on a pink towel in front of a fire (for some reason that towel bothers me – but I don’t know if that is the intent? Did Macker choose it for its color or its banality?) What was this work about? How did the pieces interact with one another?

The fact that the images stayed with me is odd, since the ones that stuck were not my favorite pieces. But perhaps that then makes them all the more successful? Recently, I revisited Macker’s work via his website and discovered the humor and pathos emanating from much of his work. Like this fantastic and gloomy photo:

Isn’t it creepy and great? I love that the sofa is the same color as E.T.’s skin, and that the little boy has the same haircut my brother had at that age.

Much of Macker’s work has this still-life quality, which is what initially stumped me as a viewer. A quick glance didn’t allow me to enter the world of the image. Sustained viewing opens up new layers. Though Macker has done editorial work, there is a difference between the following photo of pig wrestling and a similar image in a local newspaper.

Thomas Macker, “Town Fair”

I mean, that’s fucked up! Look at the expression in the pig’s giant mouth! You can hear the poor animal’s screams. The woman in back whose face we can see, is working with such concentration, not silliness. The way the women are dressed reminds me of Jean-Francois Millet’s iconic painting, “The Gleaners.”

But this is not noble rural labor to feed one’s child, this is a fairground summer ritual. Macker hones in on the total perverseness of the scene. The onlooking spectators appear almost posed – and what are they most titillated by, the pig or the women covered in mud?

Also in the “For All Our Failings” grouping of work, is this transfixing image of a strobe-light bouncy ball against a backdrop of stars. I don’t know how he made it, but I find it arresting and wonderful.

Thomas Macker, “Green Planet”

I am so curious what Macker will reveal tonight when he talks about “Process and Political Objects” in Culture Front Live at 5:30 at The Rose. Bronwyn Minton joins him, giving us, the viewers, the opportunity to step inside the processes of two of Jackson’s most interesting, genre-busting artists.

Bronwyn Minton, untitled polaroid

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