Naomi Nemes is a graduating senior in a church-founded university. As part of the requirements for an art major, Naomi has to produce an artist’s statement and gallery show – and she has kindly agreed to let us feature said statement and some of the artwork. Thanks, Naomi!
The first thing I would wish to point out is my atheism. I know this may seem irrelevant or unwise—and in some circles, suicidal—but my freethinking identity is an important thing to keep in mind when considering my work, artistic or otherwise. Atheism and many other forms of skepticism have been relentlessly persecuted throughout history by all manner of religious communities, and yet there are many brilliant and creative freethinkers throughout that history who have persevered against this hatred and brought important advances enjoyed by all living today. I honor these people and the sacrifices many of them made, and as a result the current wave of religious revisionist history disgusts and infuriates me.
The above is one reason to keep my atheism in mind. Another is the fact that even today, atheists are expected to hide their disbelief as if it was a social disease. For me to open my artist statement with an admission of atheism would come off as an admission to leprosy to many, even today. Contrast this with an opening declaration of religious faith and a detailed account of how the artist’s love of Christ encourages and inspires her—this would not be seen as irrelevant, unwise, suicidal, or even mildly inflammatory. I live with the double standard every day of my life, as do many other freethinkers in American society. Though we are long past the times of the rack, the thumbscrew, and the burning at the stake, for me to express myself as others do is liable to result in more modern forms of social persecution, such as threatening harassment, vandalism, and loss of employment among other things. And this is only with the simple admission that I do not believe in any gods—I am a dire threat for even harboring such an idea. To go a step further and suggest that I have the same rights as anyone else, as a citizen of the United States of America, seems to cause a kneejerk hysteria in this country. The Bill of Rights is on my side, but unfortunately many people are not mature enough to endure true freedom, and they see it as their duty to deal with me as they feel the law should be able to deal with me. This residue of the Cold War mentality has turned America into a caricature of the Dark Ages, and it affects me deeply. The silence of atheists will only help to prop up the slander and the misrepresentations—if the lies told about us go unchallenged, they will gain support in the minds of the populace. The very least any atheist can do is to admit to his or her atheism. So I admit—I am an atheist, I am completely unapologetic about my atheism, I am a perfectly ethical person who finds plenty of personal meaning in life, and I refuse to be ashamed or to give any quarter to those who insist I should be ashamed.
At this point, it might be helpful for me to relate this to my art. I wonder if I am a kind of futurist or neo-futurist, not so much in visual style as in content. I respect science above all, and I feel that, like atheism, it has been mistreated. Unlike atheism, however, science is at least perceived to have some personal benefit to most of its detractors, resulting in a population that is venomously railing at how science has destroyed our society as they get their children vaccinated and wait for blood test and x-ray results—a behavior I find extremely hypocritical. I am willing to admit that on the surface it seems science is at fault, but the more I contemplated the situation I realized that the complaints I had were not of science but of unchecked predatory capitalism. Capitalism has its benefits, but much like religion I feel it has been made into a dangerous caricature as a result of the Cold War—our idea of “he who has the gold makes the rules” has actually gotten to a point where many think that the boss has a right to dictate the private lives of his or her workers, and this scares me. We can’t question God, we can’t question Capitalism, and so even as we benefit from scientific advances we toss it on the chopping block as a convenient scapegoat. In reality, science is amoral, neither good nor evil. It is a tool, which can be deadly when used as recklessly as big business has used it against us. I personally admire science—it’s logical, analytical, forward-looking, optimistic, and those in the scientific community have seemed to me to actually have good intentions for mankind (often to the point of naiveté), unlike the predatory sort of capitalist businessman who has corrupted the fruits of their labor.
As a result, my favorite character to explore has been the mad scientist—a cultural archetype representing our love/hate relationship with actual scientists and as such, a far more important figure to consider than the hero. While I get great amusement from the traditional stereotype, I tend to steer away from it to more deeply develop the personality and philosophical motivations of the character. I am influenced in this by my own motivations to help popularize science, to help educate a woefully undereducated American public about actual science vs. the mischaracterizations, and to hopefully evoke some empathy for a character historically used to evoke hatred and suspicion of science.
Animation, like atheism and science, is often mischaracterized as well. It encompasses the skills and talents of “real” artists and “real” filmmakers, yet is seen as less than either of them. It often suffers from the assumption that it’s just “for kids”—just garbage churned out to distract and/or babysit children so parents don’t have to deal with them—and as a result, it isn’t always free to relate the deepest or most intelligent stories for fear of alienating its “target audience”. It doesn’t always get blamed for degrading society as much as live-action films do, but that’s only because the style has been so completely neutered by the stereotype of being nothing more than children’s entertainment.
Artistically, I have a real passion for two-dimensional work—especially in classical cell animation. My mother may wrinkle her nose, but I love the marriage of the creative and the analytical. The careful analysis of anatomy, movement, timing, the continuous charting, and the need to keep it all believable, beautiful, and organic through it all excites me like nothing else. I prefer to create art on a flat surface, and to have to analyze light and dark in order to create the illusion of a three-dimensional space. On top of that, I’m not all futuristic. I’m not one to throw out the past out of hand, and I prefer classical animation. It brings me no small amount of joy that it is on its way back to the big screen. While 3D animation has its charms, I feel it has been degrading the art of animation. The tools and programs are not artist-friendly in most cases, and as such we have a lot of engineering-types becoming animators simply because they can use the complicated programs—because of this, the quality and inspiration has gone downhill and most movies are falling back on cutesy fuzzy animal stories that might sell fast-food kids meal toys. The movies that have been successful, such as The Incredibles, utilized more traditional artists, including classical animators who had never touched a computer before. It is becoming obvious that fancy CGI programs can’t save a bad story, and that the ability to crunch numbers doesn’t make you a good animator. If you’re not creative, then you’re simply not creative and there’s no help for it. There’s no reason science and art can’t coexist—so long as the number-crunchers start making artist-friendly programs rather than taking artists’ jobs.
Some of Naomi’s artwork:
Currently Untitled (above) is based on a completely subconscious drawing from years before–I just started drawing with a line and had no plan for what it would be or how it would turn out. It was considered by my peers to be the most powerful (and disturbing) in the collection, but to tell the truth, I couldn’t really explain it if I tried. It was simply subconscious, unplanned, and produced from a completely blank mind.
Tirtha and Arnaulda are together. Arnaulda (above) is just a charcoal study of the character when I was trying something out with the medium, and Tirtha (below) is a study of the story concept. This was a story idea I had that may get pulled out of the vault again and revamped in the future. It was inspired by the interesting contrast between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his character Sherlock Holmes and also the first Witchboard movie (which featured a mystic atheist), and was modeled after the Sherlock Holmes concept. This was intended to be a take on one of those clairvoyant ghost-whisperer series of stories. In this case, the person who sees the ghosts is not some Jennifer Love-Hewitt with long skirts and crystals being earth-mother and emotional, but a cool (as in demeanor), sarcastic, logical, scientific-minded atheist. I was never a believer per se, but I did have somewhat mystical New Age leanings, and I was developing this idea on my way out of magical thinking. I still think it has potential though.
Dr Unscrupulous (above) is my username at Youtube and was a convenient name for this piece. But I think the painting I will make out of it will be called Diabolical Glee–a term I commonly use to describe the work of Danny Elfman, especially in Oingo Boingo. It’s just simply drawn portrait of a fat, strange little mad scientist on a flat, unadorned ground plane who is apparently very gleeful over something happening out of our line of sight. Mostly drawn just for fun, as a pretty typical image of a mad scientist.
Iysik (above) is a character I created in a storyboarding class. I tend to find some way to include a mad scientist in all my work, and if it is a fantasy story, I find a way to include a wizard. Taken within the proper genre, a wizard can be a parallel character to the mad scientist, although placed in the same universe with the mad scientist they become rivals–magic vs. science, and in most cases, science loses in such contrived situations. I prefer to isolate the wizard in his own genre universe and develop him as I would a mad scientist–powerful and educated, but also mysterious and frightening to the majority of the uneducated populace. In some cases, the “wizards” of old were actually providing the rudimentary beginnings of future science, and I’ve always considered this interesting.
Holy Frikkin Frankenstein (above) is a layout for another painting There will be a scientifically adorned cathedral setting behind him, and he stands a bit like a priest or a religious statue. I haven’t really placed this idea into words and it would take more time than I have to do so now, but it involves the quasi-religious regard people have for science–it is not religion nor is it a god, yet it has done more than any god ever has or will, and every discovery kills the god of the gaps a little more. Even as people rely on science, they resent it for killing their god(s). I’m grasping for the proper wording, and I think I could go on too long with this right now.
The Master (underpainting, above) and Analysis And Indignation (in progress, below) are exploring the reasons people might find science so off-putting and unnerving–a powerfully built, unapproachable and fearsome man, who should be more dramatically lit when I’m done, and of course the claims that people feel that science belittles life. Not really necessarily my opinions, but I understand the emotions involved in most distrust and dislike of scientific endeavor.
Made Man (underpainting, above) and In Hand (underpainting, below) are images of motivation and power in the hands of scientists–not really intended to denigrate, but to be more intriguing, or as an insight into the character and the fact that science has had more impact on the creation and preservation of life than on death. Made Man is driven to improve life, not just for others but for himself, as he works on his own mechanical arms with intense concentration, and in In Hand, there will be a female figure indicated in the liquid inside the vial, and the determined young chemist focuses on his creation, expressing satisfaction at the result of his long, hard work.
The Nature of the Beast (below) was from an earlier theme about beauty and society. This painting, about the nature of the relationship between men and women and the way the ever-more-unrealistic standard of female beauty has been shaped, went unfinished, with only the two figures partially realized. I dug it out this semester and realized that it would also work for this theme as well. I think it fits with what I said in my statement about the caricature of capitalism and how it warps the use of science as well.
Faith (below) is just a scribble, what I was calling a one-page meditation, something of an artistic journal entry. It’s pretty self-explanatory what with the narrative boxes–all I can add is that I intended to do some more and maybe publish them as a book in time, but so far I’ve only done one other.