Out of the Blue and Into the Black | Visual Art | Hudson Valley | Hudson Valley; Chronogram
Pin It
Favorite

Out of the Blue and Into the Black 

click to enlarge Anne Surprenant, Drone 1, graphite, pigment stick and encaustic on panel, 2011
  • Anne Surprenant, Drone 1, graphite, pigment stick and encaustic on panel, 2011

An artist is a spy. She looks around her, noting “top secret” details. Then she conveys this forbidden knowledge to her spy network (i.e. the walls of her gallery). Anne Surprenant is one such spy, revealing the secrets of unmanned aerial vehicles in “Out Of the Blue,” a show at the gallery at R&F Handmade Paints in Kingston.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)—commonly called “drones”—are either piloted by remote control or operate autonomously. The United States military uses them frequently in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Surprenant’s first picture, Drone 1, is a theatrical “dragonfly drone,” with a doughnut hole above which hovers a circle of reedlike protrusions, like the undulating tentacles of a sea anemone. ( I’ve never seen a drone, I realized.) Surprenant renders these mechanisms with painstaking pencil drawings, covered with a thin layer of shiny beeswax.

This may be the first art show ever devoted to drones (though an Australian rock band called The Drones was founded in 1998). One aspect of Surprenant’s art is a romance with flight, the surprising fact that machines can zoom through the air without flapping their wings. (Surprenant is French for “surprising.”) One notices the absolute immobility of her aircraft, as they hover above the Safed Koh Mountains, between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The wax layer adds to the illusion of floating.

“Out Of the Blue” was conceived when Surprenant heard an author reading from his book on the radio in July. He narrated the story of an Afghan man strolling away from his compound to see the sunset, during a large family gathering. The Afghan patriarch heard a drone approaching, rushed back, but it was too late. His entire extended family was destroyed. Out of the blue.

On the Internet, Surprenant found a video titled “What It Looks Like When a Drone Vaporizes Humans.” A black-and-white camera captures tiny figures running, being targeted, and exploding. The artist chose three images from the video to mount behind nylon polymer screens, giving viewers the experience of being drone navigators.

America was built on slavery, and today we have fashioned a new race of slaves for military use—mechanical slaves who will never complain, call in sick, or demand their freedom. They fly through the sky, blowing up women washing their hair. It’s embarrassing to see “our tax dollars at work”—a shameful American family secret.

Drones are not fearsome; rather, they are awkward, insectlike. They seem to be facing backward, because their propellers are in the rear. A hump at the front houses the “brain.” Beneath, they have spindly legs. “Usually, what makes a plane elegant is the lack of landing gear,” Surprenant points out. “In every picture I’ve seen, drones have landing gear.”

Her titles are extremely flat and inexpressive: Drone 3, Untitled 1, TV 3. Surprenant is deliberately draining the anger and outrage from her images, as she drains the color, relying on gray graphite, surrounded by bands of black. “One of the feelings that I wanted you to have color-wise, from this show, was a sense of falling asleep in front of a TV,” Surprenant explains. Is this “political art”? It doesn’t depict raised fists or weeping mothers. It avoids the satisfaction of melodrama. But it raises difficult questions I would call political—or perhaps moral. What is our culpability, as Americans, for these foolish-looking angels of death?

“Out Of the Blue,” an art show by Anne Surprenant, will be exhibited at the gallery at R&F Handmade Paints in Kingston through January 21. (800) 206-8088; www.rfpaints.com.

Speaking of...

Pin It
Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

Hudson Valley Events

submit event

Auditions for New Paltz School of Ballet's The Nutcracker

Sat., Sept. 23 and Sun., Sept. 24 — Please see website for details and times....
The Work of Wayne Montecalvo For Kingston's Art Walk @ Studio375

The Work of Wayne Montecalvo For Kingston's Art Walk

Sat., Sept. 23, 12-4 p.m. and Sun., Sept. 24, 12-4 p.m. — The D.R.A.W. (Department of Regional Ar Workers) in collaboration with school work/study...

View all of today's events

Latest in Visual Art

  • Olana, with The Ancram Opera House, presents an original play in landscape
  • Olana, with The Ancram Opera House, presents an original play in landscape

    Performing Olana: Frederic Church living his art Olana and Ancram Opera House collaborate to produce a theater performance specifically created to take place in the landscape of the historic site. The dramatic work draws inspiration from Frederic Church’s paintings, letters, family life and the celebrated landscape and is presented as an immersive theater experience in which performer and audience journey together into Church's art. FRI 6PM | SAT 2PM, 4PM, 6PM | SUN 2PM, 4PM, 6PM Member: $10, Non-Member: $15, Family (up to 5): $40
    • Sep 21, 2017
  • Fall for Art, Juried Art Show, Sale & Fundraising Reception
  • Fall for Art, Juried Art Show, Sale & Fundraising Reception

    Fall for Art, a juried art show, sale and fundraising reception (hosted by the Jewish Federation of Ulster County) Thursday, September 7th at The Chateau in Kingston, 5:00-9:00 pm, features 29 area artists. Reservations: ($45 p/p) at www.fallforart.org, or 845-338-8131.
    • Sep 7, 2017
  • More »

Related to Visual Art

More by Sparrow

Hudson Valley Tweets