Collage Artist Brian McDonald Creates Modern Poetry
Brian McDonald is addicted to alliteration: “Distraction, devices, Diet Coke, dates, decorating, dopamine, debt, dating apps, drama, and drugs,” reads the hand-painted passage on “Addicted to D,” one of Brian’s signature text-only works. Crowded onto a yellow background in swollen brushstrokes, Brian’s directory of D-words reveals the angst and anxiety hiding behind our favorite 21st-century amusements.
Rounding out the collection, clever works like “Films of a Feather” (Chicken Run, Duck Soup, Black Swan) and “TV Twosomes” (Kate & Allie, Mork & Mindy, Donny & Marie) underscore Brian’s fondness for puns, alliteration, and anagrams. “I enjoy wordplay, as well curated themes pulled from idioms and pop cultural references, to create a form of modern poetry,” he says, explaining that the “text can create images and associations based on the viewer’s personal experiences.” In other words, one person’s debilitating school debt is another person’s surprise medical bill.
Copied from books, magazines, junk mail, fortune cookies, and flyers, the text in Brian’s figurative work is fragmented, taken out of context, and designed to amplify anxiety. Sharing thematic territory with the one-two suckerpunch of Radiohead’s groundbreaking Kid A (2000) and follow-up Amnesiac (2001), Brian’s paintings are unsettling and claustrophobic, both aimless and inventive, like a plastic Diet Coke bottle bobbing along the ocean’s surface. “We are constantly bombarded by—and addicted to—an excess of information, choice, and rampant materialism,” says Brian, whose work is influenced by the “layers, patterns, structure, and movement found in music.”
While music and text play important roles in Brian’s work, his main source of inspiration stems from the excess of contemporary Western culture. “I seek to capture the cartoonishness that runs through American society,” Brian says, calling cartoons a “big influence” on his “colorful, awkward, and distorted” work. “I am a big fan of adult animation,” he continues. “I especially love the dark, zany, irreverent, fantastical worlds created in psychedelic cartoons.”
Using dream logic, Brian litters his works with emojis, symbols, and other instantly recognizable ephemera from the modern world: smiley faces, diamonds, and dollar signs. “Flotsam from this perpetual cycle of consumer pop culture is woven into my paintings, embedding the figures in an intricate web that suggests the nonstop movement of the mind,” says Brian. Harassed and eventually frozen into apathy by a hail of meaningless choices, the characters in Brian’s work continue craving more of the same, digging themselves deeper into the fractured consciousness of a 21st-century citizen.
“We are constantly bombarded by—and addicted to—an excess of information, choice, and rampant materialism.” — Brian McDonald
All photos published with permission of the artist(s).
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