Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Brave New (Toy) World

Have you noticed how much toy / childhood imagery there is in the art world lately? Maybe I'm just fine tuned to this genre due to my involvement in the Instagram toy photography community.  I noticed that at the art show I was recently attending there were more than a few artists working with toy / childhood imagery in a variety of mediums.

For example there was the titillating photography using HO scale figures called bodyscapes, the crazy 3-D toy collages by David Burton (seriously check this guys work out) and more HO scale photography by Audrey Heller. But my favorite by far was Joachim Knill's paintings of imaginary stuffed animals.

I first met Joachim many years ago when we both created photography to sell at arts & craft shows. His work has alway been compeling and nicely off kilter. His latest series of paintings is titled "National Treasure". The idea behind National Treasure is that these paintings are artifacts from another world inhabited by stuffed animals. Just imagine a formal gallery that has been dropped in the middle of your street and these portraits of stuffed animals in gilt frames are there to be "shared, viewed and consumed, " and you might begin to understand the concept.

These renaissance styled paintings are slightly disturbing yet endlessly intriguing. They are beautiful haunting images that take me back to my childhood and my own well worn stuffed animals.

Talking with Joachim and hearing him refer to his paintings as cultural artifacts was fascinating and certainly rang a familiar bell in my head. I think that whenever you are dealing with mass produced consumer goods in your art work that some aspect of the cultural artifact will naturally occur. It only remains to be seen how you interpret and reflect back your own culture using these ubiquitous objects. Will you become a social commentator, a mirror into the past or create a path into a parallel universe? The possibilities are endless.

I encourage you to look around and see what other artists are creating. It feels like there is a brave new world of toy art upon us.

~ xxsjc

Tripping Horse Battle Scene by Joachim Knill 
oil painting
38.5" x 48.5"


  1. Great post, Shelly! The biggest influence for me in creating this kind of artwork is the world that Mark Hogancamp created with GI Joe and Barbie, as documented in the film Marwencol. Mark, who lives in upstate NY not far from Albany, has a neurological disability, the result of a bar fight in 2000, and his recreation of the Belgian town in WWII was his way of rebuilding his life after this devastating injury. I hear there's going to be a feature film as well about Mark and his town in the next couple of years. If you haven't seen Marwencol, I strongly suggest checking it out.

    1. Lyn, one of the artists I talked to last weekend told me all about Marwencol. I am going to buy the documentary and watch it this week. The trailer had me hooked immediately. I am sure it will influence me as well. Strong stuff!