Jason Brueck’s Animal Kingdom
WORDS Peter Chawaga
It may seem counterintuitive to describe the image of a great whale floating above a glowing forest in the fog as “subtle,” but Nashville artist Jason Brueck makes a case that Animal Kingdom, his new series of digital images, combines minimal context and maximum effect.
“When putting together Animal Kingdom, I wanted to create a nuanced sense of man versus nature,” Brueck explains. “The truth of the matter is that the world is a shrinking place, and I wanted to create images showing that harsh reality without shoving it in the viewer’s face. I’m a big fan of the less-is-more approach, and when you allow someone to draw their own conclusions, on their own time, it’s much more likely to leave an impression.”
Through stark juxtaposition of animal and context—a white elephant tromping through the Arctic, a tiger stalking through a dilapidated city, a flaming buck on top of a banquet-hall table—Brueck throws the viewer into the middle of a fantasy without explanation. It’s an approach meant to elicit the viewer’s own imagination.
“It’s my hope that when people see my work, they are slow to process, letting the environment and its inhabitants take form,” says Brueck. “I want people to have questions. I want debate as to what they see versus what their husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend sees. Giving away the plot line too soon or too easily often ruins the experience.”
To create these subtly affective images, Brueck combines personal photos and found images in Photoshop, cutting out each individual piece and then layering those pieces on top of one another. With that base, he darkens, fades, blurs, and colors the images so that they blend together in an unlikely but cohesive scene.
This approach to subject construction seems to be a common thread throughout Brueck’s work, which often blends disparate images. His Pin Ups series features 1960s calendar girls dropped into the settings of other famous works, like Washington Crossing the Delaware. His series Space & Beyond depicts astronauts in unlikely natural settings. But it’s a process that has yielded particularly strong imagery for Animal Kingdom.
In one image from the series One Small Step, a chimp emerges from a space capsule recently landed in the middle of the woods. Though it appears as a non sequitur, many viewers will find that it pulls at something within their imaginations.
“I think One Small Step is a good representation of the message I’m trying to convey,” Brueck said. “Of course, many will see it and recall how chimps were used to ‘man’ the first space shuttle launches . . . By taking an ironic, manmade machine and placing it in a feral, rustic landscape, occupied by its first pilot, I think it forces the viewer to question how we’re the ones out of place that need to respect natural boundaries.
“Thought has always been my primary objective when creating new work,” Brueck says. “When someone sees my work, I want them to think. I want them to laugh. I want them to discover something the second time that they didn’t see the first.”
The provocation of thought, a standard that inspires Brueck’s approach and process, is clearly evident in Animal Kingdom and its confounding, context-free take on natural images. “I hope that when people see my work, Animal Kingdom in particular, it gives them that moment of pause to think about their part in the grand scheme of things and the opportunity they have to affect real change,” Brueck concludes.
“ The truth of the matter is that the world is a shrinking place and I wanted to create images showing that harsh reality without shoving it in the viewer’s face.”
Brueck’s art is sold in galleries around the country, including ones in St. Petersburg, Florida; Austin, and Chicago. He has exhibited at the University of Michigan, Texas A&M University, and Drexel University, among others. His work and that of his wife, artist Kate Harrold, is sold locally through their Raven & Whale Gallery at the Idea Hatchery in East Nashville.
To learn more about Brueck and see other images from Animal Kingdom, please visit www.alterimagesart.com.