Today is the day that I mark as the one when I first joined the furry fandom and thus it’s the day I celebrate the arrival of Gnomen, my first fully conceived animal surrogate. A birthday of sorts. A naming day. Somebody is six years old.
Gnomen is something very distinct from the other ways that animals have cropped up in my work, even though I’ve used images of monsters and beasts for years. There was so much rabbit imagery in my work in the 90’s that in most people’s minds I became “The Bunny Guy”. Even today much of my drawing language stems from being a child absorbed by cartoons, comics and animation. I wanted to exist in the frames of a Bob Clampett cartoon as much as I wanted my work to hang on the walls of a museum, if not more so. Animation cells remain magic objects for me, especially ones that show weird bits of a sequence that you wouldn’t think to look at otherwise. I’ve thought alot about how the rebroadcasting of classic studio cartoons on TV in the sixties was a generation’s conduit to the legacy of disreputable American entertainment: burlesque, vaudeville and minstrelsy. Bugs Bunny cracks wise in a voice that includes immigrants, genderblurred and the dispossessed, even as he traffics in blatant stereotypes.
Much of my earlier work was speaking through that imagery, using it to point to discourses of race and queerness. Furry seems to me to be about something very different. It is a kind of working, of identity formation that has more to do with embodiment, than it has to do with pure imagery. Gnomen is a character who has adventures that Nayland can’t. They undergo transformations and troubles and at the same time they embody my own sense of hybridity and mutability. Gnomen is a kind of working that rarely finds a place in galleries these days, but weirdly enough has landed on the cover of a magazine.
Owning my relationship to this fandom has brought some important things into my life, and I think this year is going to be about doing more of that. Here’s a picture I drew to celebrate Gnomen’s presence in my life. If you want to see me drawing it, I put this video up on youtube.