Some little boys like dangerous little toys: pocket knives, matches, homemade explosives. Toy guns sometimes offend, but they inflict no damage. A really dangerous toy can poke out your eye. The little boy knows this but thinks, “A little pain is worth it to be able to watch the progress of a good puncture. Besides, who needs two eyes when one will do?”
When the danger-boy grows up he may become an artist like John Tindel, who is now showing mixed media works on paper at the Kai Lin Art gallery. The pictures have sharp edges, suggest troublesome thoughts, and interfere with productive activity. Some pieces use a form of caricature to depict young men who were probably also danger-boys, but who seem to have traded in their illegal fireworks for that adult toy called hard drugs.
Tindel’s pictures sometimes deploy words within the frame, and they usually bear interesting titles (for example, “My First Skull.”) None of Tindel’s words make explicit reference to methamphetamine, but plenty of implications appear, such as pictures of crystals forming out of clouds, and one danger-boy picture being titled, “Blame it on My A.D.D.” (Atlanta Art Blog doesn’t know much about methamphetamine, but the Wikipedia article on that drug says that a form of it is sometimes prescribed for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Slang names for the drug include “cloud,” and “crystal meth.”)
The pictures don’t give the sense of glorifying drug use, or suggesting that the use of methamphetamine could inspire artistic work, spiritual revelation, or anything positive. The danger-boys, and one danger-girl (titled “She Was a Hallucination”) have wide-set, large eyes that suggest a capacity for deep thought, but are surrounded by prematurely aged and discolored skin. These are the eyes of young people exhausted by life at compulsive hyper-speed. Hope for them is in peril.
One sharp edge to these pictures is that most of them carry the hand-lettered message, “You Make Me Feel Special.” The works also include some lush watercolors of floral arrangements with no references to danger-boys or crystals and clouds—these florals, too, carry the lettering, “You Make Me Feel Special.” It’s almost as if Tindel is in the middle of sketching out a line of greeting cards to be marketed to addicts and their friends and families. That market had better love irony.
The pictures include visual references to African masks, Shamanic power animals, and holy men. It’s another trait of the danger-boy to mix up a bunch of flavors and see if the final product is edible. In fact, Mr. Tindel displays in these pictures how adept he is at creating unusual combinations. They may begin carelessly but they end by showing that the danger-boy is someone curious about mortality, and someone who fits in with his nervous friends and family.
The John Tindel exhibit, “You Make Me Feel Special,” is on view at Kai Lin Art through September 6, 2013.