Red Hen Reveiw


By Diane Armitage    THE magazine    October 2002

In a very low voice the Voodoo-Cock explained, “The time reality in which we exist is different than the ’reality’ in which Elvis and Marilyn live. They live in the same way that a work of art lives, in both historical and eternal time. Each is held in a kind of Platonic Cock-tail, where pure form and content meet”.

-The Diaries of Little Red Hen, story by Michael Scott

I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to ingest a hallucinogen

in a space large enough to accommodate this latest cycle of paintings by Michael Scott. I think it would be VERY interesting, to put it mildly. All the objects that appear to be floating in the work-shoes, eggs (lots of those), books, pictures, apricots, lemons, cushions-just might come to life and levitate for real. But could THAT kind of chemistry improve upon Scott’s own inventory of hallucinations? The artist almost, but not quite, goes too far in his wholly ambitious, saga-a body of work comprising both story line and thematically related paintings that feature chickens and the history of still life painting as protagonists.

Scott’s phantasmagorical project hangs deftly in the balance between a compilation of art historical references and an arid, modernist atmosphere of pure bright colors and clean fastidious brushwork. Add to Scott’s bizarre and complex space the ghosts of Marilyn and Elvis, and you wish like crazy this world were real and not just an artist’s visionary playground.

The painting called Channeling Ancestral Spirits is especially telling in that part of the motivation for Scott’s obsessive detailing is to do just that-channel some of the spirits of masterful still life painters from the glory days of Dutch culture from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. There are also references to John Peto, the nineteenth-century American trompe l’oeil painter. Peto is not yet a household name in American art history, but he was a fascinating artist who possessed great skill in the rendering of illusions, as does Scott himself; the affinity makes perfect sense. And so does Scott’s phantasma of anthropornorphized chickens with their flying eggs and peacock feathers, leering pumpkins and sumptuous interiors, loaded icons and hallucinatory ironies.

Neo-Platonists believe that the meeting of pure form and content within a conceptual space of shimmering, idealized intention is a source of the divine. I think this notion hangs suspended in all of Scott’s work and infuses the paintings with a strange aura that is at once awesome and slightly ridiculous. Perfect artifice as an expression of divinity - postmodern style - is an idea that is as scarce as hen’s teeth.