Sightings and Projections

“Only the inexplicable is irresistable.” -W.B.Yeats

Swamp gas. Refractions. Floaters. Fata Morgana. St. Elmos fire. Arora Borealis. Meteor. Foo fighters. Weather balloon. Satellite. Shooting star. Fireflies. Astral projection. Hallucination. Flying saucers.

UFO sightings and their attendant photo/ sketch imagery are quite evocative for those of us living on terra firma. Waffling between the scientific and the crackpot, these images may be seen to function as mirrors of our society’s collective hopes and fears.

When I was a boy, UFO’s were tied up in the anxieties, at times verging on hysteria, of the Cold War. They were quite ‘the rage’.Some have viewed UFO’s as heavenly signs of salvation, as divine signals to the righteous. Some see them as xenophobic representations, reflecting a fear of the ‘other’, UFOs delivering forth the undocumented alien to end all aliens. Carl Jung thought the UFO phenomenon were projections of the collective unconscious, expressing a need for wholeness, regarding flying saucers as mandalas, sacred designs of the order of things. UFO images like hallucinations, evoke the unknowable, they appear real but they are beyond our touch, representational yet metaphysical, not of this earth.

Sensational as the subject would seem, photos of UFO’s generally have the dull blandness of the conventional snapshot, utterly banal. This deadpan charm is often textured by the cheesy static of bad reproduction; dust, hairs, blurs, back-page ghosts, off-register printing, the grain of extreme blow-up. I find this to be ideal terrain for the tactile subjectivity of painting. Each painting is assigned a number which corresponds to the date the source photo was allegedly taken. This functions as its title and as an identification number, as though it is an object in a taxonomy file or a scholarly collection. This number also serves to anchor these interpretations of celestial voyeurism to a specific historical moment in time, at a crossroads where seeing and believing meet, at the beginning of a road beyond hope and fear.