I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: a lot of children’s materials really probably weren’t meant for children. The Wizard of Oz is based on the philosophy of Madame Blavatsky while Peter Pan includes a vulgar fairy, butchery, murder and is, basically, homage to pre-Christian paganism. Let’s not even approach Alice in Wonderland, the plot of which appears to mirror practices of some arcane secret societies. So why wouldn’t there be some secret meaning to Gonzo the muppet!?
Gonzo had puzzled artist Caroline Chandler for a number of years. She pointed out to me that his face is, basically, hermaphroditic in nature. His mouth is yonic (vagina shaped) while his prodigiously long nose curls downward toward the mouth. They let kids see this stuff! A teacher was fired in Texas for posing in Playboy, but parents buy Gonzo dolls for their kids every day! An anatomically correct Gonzo, along with Elmo, Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch appear in Chandler’s latest show at Field Projects in Chelsea. They gleefully lounge around a room filled with hippy-dippy cookies all over the walls.
The show is significant to Chandler, a Yale art school grad, because decorating and icing cookies seemed to inspire her to experiment and explore with textures, colors and various materials in the art-making process. This show represents a return to painting for the artist who has noticed that one of her chief followings is from ‘stoners’. They have liked her cookie pieces 1) because they get the munchies a lot; and 2) because her cookies allowed them to ‘ponder’ the difference between fake and real. By this, I think she means that if you make a really good fake cookie and a stoner is going through ‘the munchies’ your cookie generates a real desire to eat the cookie, but this is a type of mean trick in that the fake cookie only generates desire without allowing for a complete consummation of that desire.
Indeed, this show seems to be about desire and the quest for consummation. The male muppets lie around the room, huge penises dangling from each, while the smiling cookies on the wall beckon to them. Chandler stated, “I see them as portraits that lovingly poke fun at the idea of the male creative genius and the relationship of the creator/artist to the love object/object of desire/object of terror/object of pain aka painting.”
What I liked about the cookies is that they seem to perfectly represent what many folks seem to want from art. I am not sure a lot of folks want to be ‘challenged’ by art. I am not completely convinced that everyone wants to see art, introspect and grow inside and become a better human being and become the peace he/she would like to see in the world. There is a saccharine nature to artistic enjoyment. Does art challenge or does art gratify? Art often confirms what we already believe instead of pushing us further along the path to a type of self-development that can engage others and change the world for the better.
Chandler also points out that the cookies function as symbols for a psychoactive process. “Writings in the field of psychedelics in terms of how images function to guide the individual has been influential in my creative process and the taking of such substances parallels how I think images function within the individual. This dictates how one navigates the world.”
So going back to Gonzo. He is clearly the star of the show. His physical makeup itself hearkens to the ancient symbolism of the union of the male and female sex organs, implying a spiritual union of the quest and the fulfillment of the quest – a union of desire and thing desired. He lies supine, surrounded by sugary temptation, but content in his own inner self-fulfillment.
Great job Field Projects and Jacob Rhodes for putting this wonderful and entertaining show together!
Caroline Wells Chandler: Homunculus/ On view from April 3rd – May 10th
Curated by Jacob Rhodes
526 W 26th Street, #807
NY, NY 10001
Hours: Wed – Saturday
12:00-6:00pm through Jan 26th.
Writing by Daniel Gauss
Photos are courtesy of the gallery, artist and Jackie Zhu