between meaning and material (h.H.R.)

Hysterical Transcendentalism

2006 – 2008

This series of mixed media paintings (watercolor, gouache, acrylic, and ink) on Arches paper is at once celebratory and paranoid.

Above all, the works are intended as celebrations of the mysterious and abstract elements of flora and fauna; they are attempts to appreciate the natural world as animist cultures might have, a perspective rich with enchantment, myth, and magic.

But there is also a dark side to the project. The works are responses to an increasingly apathetic, fearful culture of distraction, biomorphic landscapes borne of what I termed “hysterical transcendentalism.” Writing about the work in 2007, I provided context for the imagery: “Religious extremism and philosophical relativism are thriving today, symptomatic of an ailing faith in reason and a backlash against universal ideals. The global populace is increasingly uncertain and insecure. We embrace hybrid cosmologies, mixing our traditional stories and religions with science, consumerism, and imported narratives. Part culture of distraction and spectacle, part renewed Romanticism, our hysterical transcendentalism is replete with all manner of superstition, shaman, goblin, and ghoul.”