|VOLUME 20||THE UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MILWAUKEE | GRADUATE SCHOOL||NUMBER 2|
What does it mean?
In describing the large, laser-printed mural, Kinsmen, Lane Hall starts with the large images of stuffed animals. "Think of what a child does with a stuffed animal. It really becomes an icon of a personality," he says, comparing it to an Internet "avatar."
"It's an online, virtual representation of your personality," Hall says of an avatar. "So you might be involved in an online chat room where you take on the personality of a cat or of a tortoise or of an eagle." Kinsmen, created by Hall and his wife, Lisa Moline, is on the facade of Woodland Pattern, 720 E. Locust Street in Milwaukee.
"We were thinking that these little stuffed animals are really loved by children, and children project all this personality -- they're really kind of living creatures to children -- and that would be a fun image to work with.
"But when you take something that's quite sweet at four inches and blow it up to eight feet, it gets to be really kind of monstrous and a little bit ominous. That interested us.
"And then the idea of somehow representing a globalization where we would inject these personalities -- kind of an indirect reference to a world ecology or a global ecology. So we put these creatures -- a cat and a bear, they are like species -- and imposed them over this fragment of the celestial map of the star chart, as well as on the real, physical maps of the world atlas, with just that word, 'kinsmen,' to bring up an idea that maybe there's a relatedness in all this -- an interrelated quality.
"In that sense I think that it's got a somewhat humorous, and a little bit indirect ecological theme to it."
"In the last pages of James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Steven Dedalus, the main character, is having this great awakening, this great awareness. He says, 'Welcome, O life! . . . We are your kinsmen . . .' The word kinsmen just means your interrelated people, your kin, tribe, your family. He's all of a sudden had this great awareness that there's a oneness and unity of the world. He calls it "the spell of arms and voices" -- this alive quality of being, magical reality. I've always loved that reference in that particular book. I've used those phrases a lot in pieces. That word for me is real full of the meaning of interconnectedness.
"I think a piece of art unfolds a lot less directly than words unfold. It's much more about the physical -- the color yellow, the scale, the panda bear that's eight feet tall, the shadow of the tree as the sun his it. It's a very physical poetry."
Yellow is the only color added to the black-and white mural, covering over half of its surface.
"It's the most purely energetic color that there is," Hall says. "The idea of something that's really vibrant from the street level. While you're passing in the car, you see this color that emits energy and the radiance of the sun. And it warms up the area."
His choice also was ever so slightly influenced by regional forces. "In recognizing that the background of Woodland Pattern is dark green, I thought that I could connect subliminally into the great Packers fervor, this bright yellow on dark green."
Hall says his artwork is influenced by literary sources at least as much as visual arts sources. His fondness for yellow reflects that of one of his other favorite authors, Jorge Luis Borges, a philosophical postmodern author of short stories and essays. Toward the end of his life, Borges said: "I used to stop for a long time in front of the tiger's cage to see him pacing back and forth. I liked his natural beauty, his black stripes and his golden stripes. And now that I am blind, one single color remains for me, and it is precisely the color of the tiger, the color yellow."