The southern gothic writer, Flannery O’Connor claimed: “The Man in the violent situation exhibits the qualities he will carry with him to heaven.” In the style of O’Connor, the New Orleans based painter, James Taylor Bonds, manipulates violent subjects – from structures that crumble to faces beaten by rifle butts – into a profound painted beauty.
Each brush stroke seems to be calculating a mythic narrative that reaches far beyond the reach of most contemporary visual art. In this way, I can’t help but drawing parallels between Bonds’ and the great history painters who brought little Napoleon to monumental scale.
I recommend viewing Bonds’ paintings in person. To me, the best of his work is on ten foot canvases. The large scale allows seems to suspend a viewer’s belief in the painted reality more-so than his smaller scaled work. (Although, I can’t say that even the ten-foot canvasses of violent destruction are enough to scare modern viewers to their heaven-bent qualities.) What is definite is Bonds’ closeness to a southern tradition of weaving quite perverse subjects into rich and beautiful narratives.
I personally enjoy artists who look to their own roots for inspiration. And so I hope that more artists take inspiration in the way of James Taylor Bonds.