the Last Great Farce of Hope
The Last Great Farce of Hope is the latest collection of paintings oil painter Justin Sonny Eagles will release in the fall of 2017. Unlike the conventional exhibit of paintings, this collection is meant to be seen in a particular sequence. The paintings follow the story of men and women who came to America in the 19th century to escape imperial Europe and better their lives. Risking everything, they then trekked west across the states, in hopes of striking it rich in the gold mines. For many
though, life in the old west was not as easy as they dreamed it, which seems to be the underlying theme in this collection.
Like many of Eagles’ paintings, the Last Farce is layered with numerous ideas and questions, as well as hidden symbols and patterns, so one has to search for clues deep within. For example, a viewer could wonder are the paintings the story of the old west experience or the growing pains of childhood dreams into adulthood reality? Several of the paintings are done with direct references to children, the sloppy coloring on a soldiers epaulette, the silhouette of a ship in a bottle like something out of Peter Pan and the body of a train conductor in the simplistic shape of a child’s drawing. Most of the paintings seem to be colorful, light hearted, even comical, except one entitled “the Oppressed”.
Here is the image of a woman who appears to be a working girl in a run down brothel, but unlike the common Hollywood wild west call girl, this is a grueling reminder of the realty of not only prostitution of the era, but the even greater ratio of sex slavery still currently in existence. The viewer looks at a prostitute through a decrepit window, she looks back. She tries to hide her face with a fan, but her eyes compel her fear and desperation. She does not want to be there, but she cannot leave. If her dreaded glare wasn’t enough, the decaying wood siding of the building enclosing her seems to scream in place of her vocal silence. The thick paint of Eagles’ brushstrokes expresses the pain and brings it to life, while the broken spaces between wood slats substitute deep wounds. Eagles filled these scarred spaces with reds and muddy whites, yellows, and greens to represent blood, semen and feces, the stained colors of rape and sodomy. Off to the side a bottle, which is a reoccurring prop in this collection, sits on the window sill. The bottle’s neck is molded into a hawk talon with it’s claws gripping the body tightly, a sure metaphor for the young woman who is trapped in her brutal dismay.
To bring this horrifying image about, Eagles recorded and listened to the sounds of power tools such as a circular saw and a router, to create an endless agonizing mindset and didn’t eat everyday he worked on it, so the hunger pains would replicate the stomach turning terror of a victim of rape. This painting presents the question is the entire collection actually the story of rape and/or child molestation, the purity and innocence of childhood and life being stolen by another, in a moment of unforgivable betrayal?
Where the Oppressed takes a sharp curve into a deeper and darker side road, it does not completely dilute The Last Great Farce with melancholy. There are two paintings which seem to be connected in expressing a path of hope for the future, “The Conductor of your journey” and “Meeting Edward Shiva.” In both, the subject’s face is of the same individual, and although their bodies are different, they stand in the same position, only reversed like the porch supporting them, checking their watches and you the viewer’s time. In The Conductor a train appears to be coming, as if the adventure is beginning, and in Edward Shiva a wagon is leaving, heading off into a soft glow of light. Here it is suggested through a couple of clues that the apparent character of Edward Shiva is an undertaker or death in human form. First theres the bottle in the lower left corner of the painting that has a skull and crossbones on it, and then theres his name Shiva, which in Judaism is a week long mourning period for close relatives and in Hinduism is a deity, Shiva the destroyer. However Shiva destroys for the sole purpose of rebirth, and the character in this painting seems to be doing the same. His face slightly smiles and the warm glow in the distance may just be a better tomorrow.
As with all Eagles’ art, this collection is open to interpretation. Although it may not be known what Eagles’ concept was for certain, it is not what he created with his imagination that matters, but what the viewer creates with theirs.