My work in this particular 2010 exhibit carries on immodestly in the tradition of Picasso, Braque. Duchamp, Arp, and--yes--Leonardo by using recombinant methods of APPROPRIATION in 140 plus mixed media works.
The critic Ken Johnson defines appropriation as collage, quotation, citation, allusion, redemption; echoing, copying, mimicking, mirroring, tracing, replicating, parodying, plagiarizing, recontextualizing, transforming, deconstructing, plain old representing, and maybe a few other acts, including outright theft. That’s me. Thief.
From the Dadaist ready-made to today, the common and shameless hijacking of words and images has a lengthy history. Rauschenberg stole spaghetti can labels, Jasper Johns stole Betsy Ross’s flag, and Duchamp lifted a urinal for his own artistic use. Lichtenstein, Cornell, Oldenburg--appropriation thieves all. AND my hero Warhol stole a soupçon of images: Liz, Marilyn, Jackie, Mao, and Campbell’s soup.
Inspired by all these art thieves everything in my newest work is appropriated BUT stolen exclusively from postcards that were created, written on, and sent between 1880 and 1920 by Real People, B.C.--BEFORE COMPUTERS. Only the scale, typefaces, and what a New York Times reviewer calls “Ketchum’s garish colors” are uniquely my own.
The idea for this new series started because of the latest electronic mania called twitter which is defined as "a short burst of inconsequential information," and also as "chirps from birds." So using no more than 140 characters, twitterers communicate in short bursts, or tweets.
And that is exactly what the penny postcards at the turn of the 20th century did. Only they did it in pencil, pen, and ink--not electronically. And the sender often added HANDWRITTEN! messages in pen or pencil. I have stolen these messages too and incorporated them at whim.
Some of the postcards were simply sent from one side of a small town to another. Some went around the globe. But all of them were short bursts of communication between friends, lovers, siblings, family members, and co-workers. The postcards sent messages of inquiry, trivial news, love, flirtation, double-entendres, and satire-- often at the expense of spouses, in-laws, and people of different ethnic groups: why, for example, a stereotypical image of a black man for a New Years greeting? In these very real messages are reflected societal attitudes about gender, race, and social class. Many of these attitudes, sadly, have survived into our electronic age. It is this idea that interests me most. The longevity of intolerance.
The penny postcards were a vital means of staying connected in a busy world. One hundred years later we are still trying to stay connected to one another, and yet, because of modern means of communication, we are in many ways more disconnected.
Some days we are so importantly busy we do not even hear the short chirps of the birds.