One of the first paintings I did of 12020 was “11:59:59” pictured above. A pair of Zol stand facing each other atop stone mountains. The Zol in the foreground clutches a device in a holster behind its back and waves with its free hand. In the backpack, a cute dog licks the observation window. Another Zol mirrors this action from across a gap, also clutching something behind its back and waving. Each side has a few monoliths, cactus, and faces in the rocks.
This painting was an attempt to capture the hanging atmosphere in the city going into last year. Riding my bike around Phoenix, this felt like the attitude among strangers I would encounter along the canal. Normally out in the wild world of public exercise and exploration, I give a “howdy” to passing explorers. People from the East coast in particular find these interactions strange. But I remember picking up the habit from hiking trails. Sometime early in 12020, these canal interactions became apprehensive. That’s the only way I could think of to describe it at the time. Instead of the usual wave, hello, or head nod, people averted their eyes, kept their hands on their wallets, and shuffled past at excess speed.
Given the intense political divide that the US went through this past year, these interactions felt like the moments before some cliche “high noon” situation. Picture yourself exploring the vast emptiness of some far off planet, when suddenly another explorer crosses your path. Is this strange blue creature friend or foe? What is their body language saying before this great divide? And what other judgements are being made in this scenario? Hat color?
This was also the first time I started thinking of the monoliths as walls. I’ve been painting monoliths, pyramids, and other relics from past civilizations into settings for many years. Now that I’ve seen a wall used as a monolith in the real world, it seems appropriate for the Zol to interact more with them.
Later in the year, after the pandemic forced us further indoors for one moment, then back to work the next, I painted “Date Night.” I experimented with making the monolith into a wall that inconvenienced the Zols. Around here is when I started to paint the octopus-like Fren. These are very literally supposed to reflect the fear in the air. The two Zols sneak past a Fren, melded into the wall, without even looking at it. The past 4+ years have compounded the fear that humans observe every day. They come in the form of plague, riots, racist organizations, celebrity sex offenders, and conspiracies in your backyard!
One of my preferred methods of battling pandamicmanium was by playing multiple Dungeons and Dragons games a week. I drew quite a few characters and came back to an old obsession in orcs.
These creatures now inhabit many paintings in the MuX universe. Rest assured that these orcs are neither the violent cartoons from Tolkien fame, nor are they the brainless challenge rating 2 of the DND universe. Instead, they are individually useless freaks, with wants and needs that don’t even make sense to themselves.
Orcs and Zols exist in the same universe, often pictured at different times. The Orcs in this painting, titled Tau Omega Rubik, sneak out under the watchful eye of a Zol street-fraternity party. The Zol are at different stages of different consumptions, and the Rubik tower was a last minute idea that I want to return to in other paintings. The orcs hold crab traps and escort a cute dog. Behind them stands a giant looming wall.
In the real world, we were encouraged to stay isolated and stop the spread. But it seemed like a lot of people (myself included) were forced to make multiple workarounds. The motto of 12020 seemed to be, “well its not ideal.”
Roads were open, but nothing at the destinations. People gathered online to call out people that gathered in person. And weaving its way through everything was the fear. Much of that fear was justified, but it was also damned exhausting. Painting these tentacles throughout everything was an attempt to capture that feeling.
This was just meant as a short explanation behind some themes in my paintings and I plan to write more. Leave me a comment here or on my IG @muxishere to let me know to what you think.