Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Still Life With Artificial Life-Forms

(This is a follow-up post to the post in which I introduced an ALF in fossilized form...)

(Way) back when, that is, when I was in my early 20's... I was walking along the beach one night, when what to my eyes did appear but a tiny blue light in the sand near the receding water's edge. But, what's that (!), I thought as I drew closer; some sort of alien jewel that's just dropped from the sky? (I have always been exceedingly imaginative) Crouching down, I lifted the little thing on a flat shell that was conveniently sitting nearby, and closely inspected it.

It was a transparent, gelatinous, elliptical little blob - a little over an inch in length... the blue light I saw was actually a perfectly designed clump of filaments upon which a blue glow travelled along like electricity on a strange sort of organic circuit. I was absolutely mesmerized; it was simply the most beautiful, magical thing I ever saw.

Years later, when I began creating my mysterious artificial life-forms, it wasn't until I sketched ALF #4 (above and below) that my beach incident came back to me... because, in the last analysis, that little "gooseberry" - what I came to discover was a variety of "comb jelly" - was the major unconscious focal point of my inspiration: recapturing that wonderful enchantment of finding a living creature that is just so amazing that it's almost beyond description.

Were you one of those kids that used to dig in your back yard - or somebody else's back yard - looking for some sort of mysterious treasure? Well, that was me as a child... and the weird thing is, I had no conscious idea of what I was looking for or what I hoped to find... it was almost an instinct... in that, I knew there were mysterious, wonderful things to be found in this life, and I was on some mission to discover them. And, I never lost that child's instinct. Only, instead of becoming an archaeologist or a marine biologist in the real world - which I could've done had I had that option - I did my digging inwardly, searching for imaginal treasures. I guess, at some point, I realized that it wasn't really the official world I was most entranced with... and there was nowhere else I could go apart from an imaginal world... hence, I became the mad artist I am! ;-)

(Pictured at the beginning of the post: another species of ALF (and a detail) in what is more a 2-dimensional diorama than it is a "still life"... I just happen to find the idea of ALF's in "still life" artworks more... well, ironic.)

For those (immortal children) who might be interested, here's a Youtube video of some comb jellies (above). I like this film but I have a different soundtrack going through my head... the same soundtrack that always filters through my head when I'm doing ALF work - my favorite Radiohead tune and, possibly, my favorite tune of all time: "All I Need". I found a Youtube selection for it that I'll post below... mainly because something about the song and the images (from the 1996 French film "Microcosmos") are fitted perfectly together (by J. Tyler Helms), and intimate what moves me most as an artist: the unparalleled (and heart-wrenching) beauty of  minutiae in the natural, organic world.


  1. As you point out, treasures are all around us -- we merely need to open our eyes and SEE.

    Love the ALF creations.

  2. Yes, there's seeing (which most people do) and Seeing which is almost a reverential act... the way a child sees... with awe... and from the core. I think adults try to recapture this ability, this sense of awe, with "altered states"... and visual artists and film-makers, etc., via their work.

    I'm so glad you like the ALFs... kind of like objects of art via the Smithsonian: