Frankenstein (IS0036), 1997 Oil on Canvas 30 × 26 inches
Frankenstein (IS0036), 1997
Oil on Canvas 30 × 26 inches

When I had my breakout New York City debut at Jay Gorney Modern Art on Greene Street in SoHo, it was a major, store front gallery that my teachers and friends Lari Pittman and Cathy Opie also showed at, and was my dream destination as a gallery. My show freaked people out, however—I would like to think a great art show creates binaries—if people love it and some people hate it (hopefully more love than hate!) than you know as an artist you are "doing something," creating change perhaps or moving along a discourse. Coming from Post Modernism and a child of the Pictures Generation, I wanted, with this show, to get the "batteries that were operating the engine" of my earlier works that I had become known for—where I was appropriating images, but also styles of rendering for all the productive baggage they could have herein. Coming to New York City, and reading the John Richardson biographies of Picasso, instead of art directing myself to draw and paint in a certain way or to use the appropriations of art history and culture to discuss ideas within pre-existing narratives that I would unpack by the retelling, I decided I would try a lot of automatic drawing and rendering, trying to find the "signature" that made all the works I did somehow consistent and/or perceptively "by the same hand," and when working with appropriated imagery, try even further to "get inside the image" and like a method actor, empathize with the image, using it as a vehicle to express ideas and experiences of my own life.

Frankenstein’s monster, an enigmatic creation first created by Mary Shelley and furthered into mythology by the great movies of James Whale starring Boris Karloff as the Monster, has always been a touchstone for me since I was a youth drawing pictures of him and portraying him for Halloween. For Shelley, he was a sentient being who was an articulate abject soul rejected by the Phallocentric Patriarchal Order as a speaking subject that wasn’t part of "nature," or how the newly industrialized society and science-obsessed world would receive this amalgamation of man’s manipulation of nature (and perhaps too an avatar of a post-adolescent brilliant writer working amongst men in a more misogynist time where a female voice of her stature couldn’t find as much footing as her friends, colleagues, and husband Percy Shelley. For Whale, an openly gay man during the time of WWI and British expatriate making Hollywood films after coming from theater, I feel he used the characters of Frankenstein and his monster to allegorically speak through avatars about his own plight and ideas—the monster coming from a Romantic era into the Symbolic, where the feelings and fears of not fitting in could be amalgamated by the aesthetic manifestations of fog and withered trees and the Monster writhing and moaning among them.

When I came to NYC, I didn’t feel necessarily like Frankenstein’s monster, but realized the potency of the symbolic metaphor, and like Karloff, wanted to step into the mask of the monster to express my feelings of isolation and antipathy repressed inside as a post-adolescent gay man and as an artist within Corporate Commodity Culture. How can you make a non-cheesy image of Frankenstein’s monster? I was going through a bit of a "blue period," using the melancholic palate consciously of the master Picasso, and "went for it" with this image, that I hoped also broke down into abstraction (hence the original title, where I was naming and numbering all my works as "Iconscapes" to create a leveling field between the figurative and "figurative/abstract" works I was culling from my imagination. This was one of the first images you saw walking in, next to a circle "Iconscape" that almost looked like a bullet hitting the Monster, shot by a nearby Keanu Reeves from an image of Point Break. It was a memorable show, one that acted much like the Monster’s legacy—excited (by artists mostly) and reviled (by collectors mostly) it lives on in infamy—and here, hopefully the Monster is a resurrected angel, looking onto the scenes below him with empathy and compassion, and coming into his own, a pop-culture Lazarus, in the recent revisiting of this image I created on the last Finale (Last Judgment) wall.