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Saturday, July 12, 2008
"Hurley Sees A Shark" by Johnny L., age 14
THE ART OF JOHN LOCKE
As a child and shy, introverted teenager, Johnathan Locke had a flair for imaginative art and storytelling that he rarely pursued as an adult.
In this mixed media collage/painting done when he was 14, he depicts the hero of a series of fantasy stories he made up called "Hurligan's Island".
In this composition the hapless jinxed "Hurly," dressed in a cheery picnic tablecloth patterned shirt, is seen in a typical cartoonish situation, seemingly about to be hit on the head by a falling coconut. However, Hurly is on the far side of the tree and the cluster of coconuts is on the near side, indicating they will fall behind him and miss him.
It is a bright sunny day but ominous approaching storm clouds foretell doom. Hurly is sitting near the beach gazing out at the ocean but he sees a shark and cannot go swimming.
When asked about the significance of the grave marker in the lower left corner, John replied "That's his girlfriend - someone shot her in the guts."
This work inspired much controversy when it was "unveiled" - ie turned in as an art class assignment.
The teacher noted the vertically divided composition. All the bad elements - the storm clouds, the shark, the grave - are on one side of the dividing line tree trunk, but Hurly is on the other side with the life-giving sun and the growing plants.
The art teacher also noted the Ernie Bushmiller "three rocks" and Charles Schulz "cluster of plants" influences/homages and praised the way "Johnny L." disguised his Johnny Hart inspired signature at the base of the clump of weeds.
The school nurse was concerned about the obsession with death symbolism. One of the counselors also noted with some concern the Christian cross as a death symbol (grave marker) while the sun, the source of life, was depicted with a third eye, implying "some sort of Easterm Mysticism". And the Vice Principlal was most concerned with the palm tree, in the belief that all seven leaved plants represent marijuana use. (Pot leaves actually have serrated edges, however.)
When asked about the symbolism of the smiling sun, young John just laughed and said it was "product placement". (the three-eyed sun has been the trademark of the small press comix company "Nice Day Comix" since 1979.)
The work was framed and displayed in a student art show at the local public art museum and, not having been picked up, remains in storage as part of their permanent collection.