I grew up with two older brothers and learned plenty of surprising things from their actions. For example, when I was just 6 or 7 years old, my oldest brother, Barry, was approaching his 15th birthday. Mom asked him what kind of birthday cake he would prefer. Barry astonished me by answering, “Pie.”
I was shocked on two levels.
First was the surprise that we lived in a world where one could push the dessert envelop all the way into another category. I thought, “Holy cow! Life is hiding opportunities to jump outside the lines and no one told me!”
The second surprise—there are people in the world, more mature than I, who have already thought about their dessert preferences and who are prepared to declare their preferences in public. And there was no reason to believe that preferences would stop at desserts. Perhaps, as I grew older, I was expected to have opinions about everything. I thought, “Wow. I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Now, 60 years later, I still don’t have opinions about everything. But I have made progress. For example, I am in favor of margaritas, naps, books with pictures in them, and heated car seats.
It was my memory of my older brother’s bold declaration of support for pie that was on my mind when I started drawing what became the suite of three letterpress prints, Follow Your Passion. Here’s one of the images.
It depicts primates boldly expressing their passion for pie and taking their case to the street for the whole world to see. Another print in the suite shows cake enthusiasts and there’s a third print with a solitary broccoli supporter.
Can you explain why you think these drawings are funny?
Probably not, but I’ll point out four ideas.
* We often hear the advice to ‘follow your passion.’ It’s tempting to think that we’re passionate about lofty things like truth, justice, and creativity. But, if we’re honest, we all probably know more people who are passionate about pie, golf, and heated car seats. So, showing a crowd picketing for pie instead of justice is slyly candid.
* I’m suspicious of anyone who demonstrates for or against something in the streets. It’s not my style and I have my doubts about any bozos with megaphones shouting to try to get the world to bend to their will. We live in an age when too many people have megaphones. I keep listening for a reasoned presentation but all I hear are deceptive slogans and hot air.
* The notion that pie and cake are in opposition is ridiculous. It’s a false dichotomy. Pie and cake don’t have to exclude each other. You can have both. Maybe having both at the same meal is overdoing it, but it’s not physically impossible. Hallelujah!
* Finally, it seems absurd to me that pie would need anyone’s support. Both pie and cake are on a higher plane. They don’t need the approval of mere mortals.
In this suite of drawings, the creatures expressing their enthusiasm for pie/cake/broccoli all look pretty ape-like. There’s a reason.
After a life-time of study of myself and my fellow human beings, I’ve become convinced that people are just apes with access to better wardrobes. So it seemed right to show us that way in images which focus on basic appetites.
In addition, drawing dozens of apes was great fun for the artist.
There were some early sketches where I looked at aliens picketing for pie. But that’s a different joke about what it is about planet Earth that draws in distant visitors.
Need more fun in your art collection?
You can learn more about this letterpress print project and become a sponsor on Kickstarter by following this link.
Pittsburgh, July 8, 2019