Monster ballads

Paul Thulin

Paul Thulin explores the darker side of his psyche with works like “Deep in the Frontal Lobe, Responsibility and Survival Share the Daily Workload.”

Paul Thulin explores the darker side of his psyche with works like “Deep in the Frontal Lobe, Responsibility and Survival Share the Daily Workload.”

Photo By David Robert

Those who pay attention to artist Paul Thulin’s work are sure to feel a full spectrum of emotion. Truckee Meadows Community College is displaying his surrealist photography this month in their Red Mountain Building.

Nolan Preece, an instructor at TMCC and the man in charge of the college’s art galleries, says Thulin represents a new style to him.

“He’s almost like a psychologist that’s also an artist,” Preece says. “It’s about self-exploration.”

Preece said unique characteristics of Thulin’s exhibit, Dissolving Boundaries of the Self: Rhizomatic Psycho-History, include the verbiage along the sides of his digital prints, the rulers defining the boundaries of the work and the use of glass plates.

Thulin, who lives in Richmond, Va., said over the telephone that he does his artwork—especially in this series—as a type of narrative.

“I present my images as I experience them—as living artifacts of an examined post-modern identity,” he says.

Rhizomatic art, which refers to roots spreading out from a central organism, is Thulin’s attempt to show superficially disparate pictures as part of an underlying narrative. One piece shoots off in one direction and takes on one form while another goes off in a completely different direction, but the underlying theme unites them.

“The story and the plot are in constant flux as I go along,” Thulin said.

The pictures themselves are often disturbing. Even in lightly colored photos, there are deep scratches and likenesses of Satan.

Many of Thulin’s works depict devils and/or pigs. The intention, Thulin said, is to portray the pigs as purveyors of reason and the devils as symbolic of emotion.

The devil is an especially interesting and important character in his work. Thulin says that because the personage of Satan has changed so dramatically—from a simple embodiment of humanity’s opposite to a scaly monster intent on pain and death—it means different things to different people. Because of this potency, he said, it works well to symbolize the awkward incompatibility between emotion and logic.

That awkwardness is especially apparent in scenes where the devils appear to be sexually involved with the pigs. The disturbing hints of bestiality, Thulin said, symbolize the increasing tension of an intimately close emotional self and rational self.

Thulin also uses dark and dirty backgrounds to many of his pieces. This, he said, is to symbolize the way that we know ourselves. We take parts of our self image and, alternately, suppress and re-experience them through the fog of a decaying memory. The effect is to create backgrounds that often look like concept sketches for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 43.

Thulin can overdue the symbolism. The meanings of the pigs and devils are hardly apparent, and the theme is unrelentingly menacing, but even without fully understanding it, the work is fascinating. An intellectually curious passerby could easily spend hours toying with the thoughts and emotions they provoke.

Art note
And don’t miss TMCC print instructor Candace Nicol’s stunning exhibit Postures and Parts, the Male Nude, in the main gallery through November. From the goofy, one-legged hopping of a naked, tattooed man removing his sock to the reclining male nude straight out of the Renaissance, these are images of men you know—raw and vulnerable. No less impressive is how Nicol layered oil glazes and resin over the prints to form these images out of tile-like structures.
Kat Kerlin