The Bunny in the MoonArts, Blog, Featured, Visual Arts — By Stephanie Nikolopoulos on November 5, 2010 at 6:00 am
Beck, The Decemberists, and Rilo Kiley commissioned her to do concert posters for them. Elle magazine called her “the crown princess of poster art.” Juno plastered her bedroom walls with her illustrations. And, as reported in a previous Burnside article, Penguin snatched her up for the redesign of a literary classic. Tara McPherson is on fire, and and this month she’s earned a coveted fine-art show in New York’s most posh arts district.
Last year, McPherson traveled around the world to promote Lost Constellation, the Dark Horse Comics art book of her now iconic artwork on the themes of love and heartbreak. While jetting from city to city, she encountered the folklore, myths, and legends that make up the cultures of the world. What she saw inspired her latest body of work.
From the beginning of time, humankind has grappled with the hows and whys of this world. How did civilization come into existence? Why are we here and what is our purpose? From the myths of the Greek gods to the Creation stories of the Native Americans, cultures from every corner of the world have tried to answer the questions of life through myth and religion.
Collecting stories as she traveled to thirty different cities around the world, McPherson discovered the unique and the unifying beliefs in world folklore. Through The Bunny in the Moon, a collection of drawings, paintings, and sculptures, McPherson explores the themes of identity, love, beauty, fate, womanhood, and nature.
The title piece is the Buddhist rending of the man in the moon story. Long before the race to space put a man on the moon, an Asian myth attempted to explain the mysterious images of the moon that man saw from earth. Instead of a man in the moon, the Buddhist myth explains that the image in the moon is a bunny that was put there by a god. According to the myth, a man had been starving and a bunny sacrificed his life to feed the man. What the bunny didn’t know was that the man was actually a god in disguise. The god honored the sacrificial bunny by sending his ashes to the moon for all the world to see forevermore. The painting The Bunny in the Moon recalls Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. All pink and turquoise and lovely, it depicts a bedroom-eyed couple scratching notes above each other’s naked hearts with the points of arrows. All-seeing, perhaps all-knowing, eyeballs pop out of the center of the anemone-like flowers that encircle the couple. The moon with the bunny in it looms large in the starlit sky.
The Love Space Gives Is as Deeps as the Oceans and Bunny Girl continue the bunny myth. The Love Space Gives not only expands upon the subject of a bunny in outer space, but its style is classic Tara McPherson: in the oil painting, a pretty girl with pink hair has a heart-shaped hole in her chest. Anyone who grew up listening to Plumb’s “God-Shaped Hole,” would likely identify the hole in this woman’s heart as a longing to be filled by something (perhaps God) outside of herself—though the heart-shaped hole could just as likely be representative that the girl has given away an essential part of herself. Bunny Girl is a cigarette girl pin-up image.
Other paintings within this collection give contemporary lens to the Greek myth of Narcissus, the Japanese myth of Umibōzu, the Roman myth of Creation, and the Brazilian myth of shape-shifting pink dolphins. Keeping to a palette of pinks, blues, and black, McPherson creates a dreamy, magical feel in her latest body of works. Although the paintings have an otherworldly aura, the themes are universal. Sometimes looking at someone else’s culture and belief system sheds new light on one’s own points of view.
McPherson’s pristine paintings are the staple of this collection. The accompanying drawings offer the type of insider look one normally doesn’t get to see until an artist’s retrospective. In the black-and-white line drawings, one can see the outline of the paintings to come. The sculptures, on the other hand, add dimension to the otherwise slick collection. Standing on their own, the flowers with the eyeball centers resemble the toys one might see at Kid Robot, but seen in the midst of the collection at the
gallery, they animate The Bunny in the Moon.
The opening at Jonathan LeVine Gallery was all tattoos and vintage fifties dresses, the crowd younger and hipper than those at most art galleries in Chelsea. The gallery went out of its way to create an experience for the viewer. Two of the walls at the gallery are stenciled with hearts to match the decorative background of one of the paintings—the design also riffs on the omnipresent theme of love cultivated throughout McPherson’s entire body of work.
The Bunny in the Moon is McPherson’s second solo show at this gallery and will be on view through November 20.