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Don Eddy: The Art of Paradox: 11/15/15
In 1988 a colored pencil drawing of a Western style saddle I had done was selected along with about 100 other student artworks for display at the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park. The next room over had a display of photorealistic artwork. One of the artists included in that traveling show was Don Eddy. At the time Eddy was known for his paintings of chrome bumpers, families standing in front of cars, and shop window displays where the outside reflections vie for the viewers' attention.
When I saw Eddy's name pop up in one of the art chapters of The Automobile and American Culture I decided to revisit his artwork. The book my local library had was Don Eddy: The Art of Paradox by Donald B. Kuspit. Please note that my negative reaction isn't to the artist's body of work, it's to how it's presented in this book.
Eddy describes his work as a celebration of the "mystery of being." The Art of the Paradox tries to explain what that means and to me misses the mark. Which, granted, is probably extreme chutzpah on my part as the author has made a career out of art criticism and teaching art history, but there you go!
On seeing Eddy's work in person the first time, I was actively painting in oils and was attempting to learn how to do dancing light on fabrics and metals that John Singleton Copley accomplished. To make silken fabrics or reflective surfaces really "pop" at different levels of scrutiny it takes a lot of carefully placed lines of color — some very close in hue and tone to their neighbors, and some complimentary. It's not something one can just slap on there in a Bob Ross fashion (though his methods for mountain landscapes are awesome).
If Copley's pieces have a level 10 attention to detail, then Eddy's are off the scale. The amount of work to make something appear hyper realistic results in something that were it photographed even in a medium or large format would still come up short compared to Eddy's pieces. In doing so, he's taking the viewer outside the natural world where reality is taken for granted and asked people to stop for a moment to do an ontological double-take. What are the elements of our modern life and how do they play with our perceptions?
My problem with Kuspit's analysis is that it's too reliant on a religious experience or awakening. To me it's more about being forced to realize that the world doesn't look like I remember it. Details are heightened in things remembered and blurred in things forgotten. By making everything with more details than a lens can capture and with everything hyper focused, one is forced in a piece of art to decided what the important details are because everything is presented with the same demand to attention.