Cy Fi Fan

Jon Haddock's digital art generates a media buzz and selection in a major exhibition at the Whitney

At one point, a hard look at the content of the art he had been creating forced Haddock to seriously reevaluate what he was doing: "All my work previous to 1995 fit into this genre of surrealist, dream-based personal discovery. I became dissatisfied with that particular genre. And I noticed that I really didn't like other examples of [surrealist] art I was seeing.

"I think I cooled to the Mexican surrealists, particularly the women Mexican surrealists like Frida Kahlo and Remedios Varos, who for a long time had been my big inspiration. I started having this inferiority complex as an artist -- I felt, 'What could I really contribute to the world besides mediocre, pretty pictures about my own dreams?' What I think brought me out of it was this idea of making art that was not about me, but was about the people who were looking at the art."

That's when Haddock began dealing with the concept that what one has to say is infinitely more important than the way in which one says it. With the encouragement of Seattle artist and friend Mark Takamichi Miller, the artist started working on his ISP (Internet Sex Photos) series. The series involved downloading homegrown porno images from the Internet, then manipulating them in Photoshop, a powerful photo-editing software program, to eliminate any trace of a human figure.

Jon Haddock with one of Screenshots.
Paolo Vescia
Jon Haddock with one of Screenshots.


"I started to notice the backgrounds of the images, rather than the actual thing going on in the middle," Haddock says. ". . . By looking at the backgrounds of these photos, you learned a lot more about these people than just seeing a naked body. My intention was to make [the missing people] more human by looking at the spaces these people actually exist in and our human relationship to that."

Also fascinated by the hobbyist subculture of toy model making, Haddock began producing small sculpted resin toy models of nonfictional characters in various gruesome scenarios taken from the news (murderess Susan Smith, an L.A. rioter and police action figures beating Rodney King were among the models he crafted). Out of that and his interest in popular video games came Haddock's Screenshots, which he drew on a digitalizing pad that fed the drawn images into his computer, then edited via Photoshop and ultimately made into large prints.

Haddock's aperçu about the subliminal connection he initially made between toys and violence came through the eyes of his son, Jaxon, who at 2 or 3 was starting to watch television and be exposed to scenes like the Rodney King beating. "That connection was still there when I started Screenshots, though the violent quality to the images finally chosen -- which all mean something personally to me -- was not intentional when I planned the series," the artist says. "I think it says something that I didn't necessarily fully understand about our culture -- about the problems of violence and how much violence interests us."

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