“Who is HE . . . ?”
This question usually begins the initiation to my work. For almost a quarter century, countless collage and mixed media works have been based on a single image of a forlorn clown. I have waltzed this trope to the precipice many times, only to discover dozens more in the offing.
“HE” debuted in a small work dating back to 1993 called A Misinformed Clown Hands Crayons to the Hungry Children. The original source image was gleaned from a book containing a publicity still from the 1924 silent film HE Who Gets Slapped, which was based on a 1914 play of the same name by the acclaimed Russian playwright Leonid Andreyev (1871–1919).
To this day, the clown’s meaning––in all its manifestations––remains a mystery to me. At times, HE is a self-portrait comically parading with deadpan precision my darkest fears and deepest anxieties. But perhaps HE is more a reflection of the greater human condition. The black eyes, absurd attire, hunched posture, all topped with an expression that appears to be both laughing and crying, paint a portrait of a bewildered protagonist futilely offering answers for which there are no questions.