The Surrealist Manifesto (Second Edition)

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(This, dear viewer, is called “Portrait from the Jungle”.  Three images from 1980 magazines put together in a surrealist manner.  It’s intentionally kinda creepy… that is of course why there is a chicken in it.  Chickens creep me out.)

 

The Surrealist Manifesto ; or Why I have to Juxtapose Silly Stuff to Make Meaning by Mishmashing

 

To begin with, you have to picture me as a seventeen-year-old geeky kid in High School Art Class in 1974.  Yes, I was four-eyed, but not with the cool round granny glasses, but the black horn-rims that were not only cheaper, but much more dramatically out of date and out of favor with my peers.    I was a participant in Art 3, a class that meant I was an Art nerd for the third time in only three years of high school.  Yes, I could draw well, and all the girls cooed in their sexy cheerleader voices, “Ooh, I just hate you because you can draw so darn good.”  And I would blush because it sounded like praise, even though you may notice they actually said they hated me.

Now that you have that awful image foremost in the inner eye of imagination, I can reveal that that was the year I discovered the work of Salvador Dali.  Yes, that’s right, the dumb old melted watches guy with the handlebar mustache that looked like he’d taken a pencil sharpener to both ends.  The melted watches, naked people with all their parts grotesquely stretched out and draped over stuff, and a soft sculpture that would thoroughly disgust anybody with baked beans scattered all around the foreground.  These were the elements of what was called the surrealist movement.  Surrealism, according to the all-knowing Wikipedia, is filled with the element of surprise, unexpected juxtaposition, and non sequitur.    Silly old Andre Breton, the founder and chief sayer-of-what-is-true about surrealism, said that first of all it is a revolutionary movement.  Now, I grew up in a determinedly Republican and conservative household in North Central Iowa.  I had to look up juxtaposition in the dictionary just to know what the heck they were talking about.  Back then, of course, I used Webster’s, not Wikipedia.  I stood to lose significant portions of the hide on my behind if my family discovered I was using my swiftly enlarging and apparently all-knowing high school brain to investigate revolutionary ideas!  In fact, if I had realized that political surrealism had an affinity for both Freud and Communism, I probably would have closed the book on it myself.  Still, I was swept away.

I entered college a few years later convinced that my revolutionary art ideas were going to galvanize the world around me, that world being Cow College, otherwise known as Iowa State University.  I was going to revolutionize the novel form by writing everything about my little home town in Iowa and doing it in full color, comic book style panel cartoons.  My heroes would be small town people who took on the greatest of all issues in modern life and tackled them so brilliantly that it would create world peace, make universal happiness without the use of drugs, and be such great art that it would put my name in the art books right beside Salvador and Rene Magritte.  People would be studying my work for years to come.

This was the point in life in which I created some of my best characters, the Bicycle-Wheel Genius who shunned modern technology and created his own pedal-powered helicopter, the hippy hobo who wore a coat of many colors sewn together from pieces of patchwork quilts and ultimately knew the most important secrets of life, the universe, and everything, and of course, the numerous fools and clowns that would put Shakespeare’s Touchstone, Falstaff, and Bottom to shame.   I was going to revolutionize story-telling in cartoons! 

As you know, someone else invented the graphic novel.  I don’t even know for sure that I had the idea first.  Probably not.  And, with my lifetime of luck reminiscent of Joe Btfsplk, I developed arthritis at the age of 18 and had to curb my obsession with drawing comics.

So, a thirty year career as a middle school and high school English teacher taught me that life is a series of surprises, juxtapositions of an unexpected variety, and non sequiturs.  Where had I heard that before?  Ah, yes!  I had realized that life is an exercise in surrealism.  Therefore, now that I am finally on track to become the story-teller that I set out to be, I will be a surrealist.  I will take the surreal bull by his electric pink and curly-cued horns and say, “Whoa, kitty-kitty, don’t permafrost this old wombat!”  Why will I say that?  Is it to be a surrealist like Dali?  Heavens to murgatroid, Baba Louie!  Of course it is!

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