Isaac Hummon
Sewanee, TN
“Happy Hubris” Oil Paint, Beeswax and Duck Feathers on Canvas by Isaac Hummon 60″x20″$5,000

Artist Statement:

This piece, Happy Hubris, comes from an ongoing series titled My Religion of Uncertainty, which addresses ideas about the eternal and the untouchable. The work of this series is meant to show personal reflections, not universal truths. They express my many uncertainties in regards to religion, morality, and different cultural perceptions of the afterlife, and also to call into question dogmatic theology. The use of absurd realism and allegory in these works interpret these personal reflections so that they can be observed and understood by a wider audience.

The humorous, or absurd quality to every piece in this series makes it so none of the works take themselves too seriously, and their reflections become less didactic. This humor allows the work to be more approachable, but at the same time it blurs the underlying meaning. This obfuscation gives one the option of taking the work at face value, or diving deeper for greater meaning. In My Religion of Uncertainty, the works address some serious existential questions, but the comedic aspect allows them to be more light-hearted. With this comes a sense of irreverence, or even indifference to the entire discussion, calling into question our attempts to understand concepts like God and the afterlife.

Should you you analyze the works more closely, the realism creates a space where the intangible can exist. From there, characters and objects reveal a narrative, and although the meaning of each work varies, they raise similar questions about the application of religion, mythology, spirituality, etc. in the real world: what makes something ‘real’? What does does it mean to exist eternally? What kind of limitations does religion put on us? These questions are not ones with easy answers, and the work doesn’t attempt to give any. My art simply asks the questions we all have lurking in the back of our minds.

About Happy Hubris:

Happy Hubris takes a look at apathy as it relates to personal morality and mortality. The narrative here is a reimagining of the myth of Icarus, which warns against hubris. The subject is realistically rendered in order to bring the fictional scene and its message into the tangible world. With this in mind, real beeswax and duck feathers are applied in the creation of Icarus’ melting wings. Similarly, the sensation of falling is recreated through the size and shape of the canvas. The five-foot canvas places the viewer’s eye right at Icarus’ level, near the top of the canvas, forcing the eye to travel another four feet down to reach the bottom. Building upon this sensation, the weaving pattern of the waves continues in the clouds and even into the figure, further guiding the eye downward.

A winged human falling simultaneously creates allusions to the Christian mythos of the fallen angel Lucifer, and his bright red shirt, and mocking hand gestures suggest his wickedness. Both narratives incorporate a judgement and a fall. In the case of Icarus, he has demonstrated too much hubris and he now falls into the ocean as his wings melt, while in the Christian tradition Lucifer has sinned against God and is cast into hell. However, in this interpretation, Icarus smiles and flicks off the sun which casts him out, rejecting philosophy and God. The warm tones of the piece and the absurd joy in his expression reflect the positivity of this fall. The open ocean below indicates that what awaits is death, but Icarus’ attitude seems to suggest otherwise. The difference between this elated Icarus and the more traditional, tragic interpretation raises the question; do we really need to follow any path but our own, and what are the consequences if we do?

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