It would be easy.
I could quip, “Jen knows a good cock when she sees one” and leave it at that.
To do so, however, would be a serious disservice to the art of my dear friend, Jen Hernandez Banys. Jen created the birdhouse pictured above as an entry into a fundraiser for The Chicago House, a not-for-profit organization that helps to provide housing for those afflicted by HIV and AIDS. So not only did Jen create a heckuva birdhouse, she helped out a worthy cause. That Jen. She’s just all things to all people, isn’t she?
Named “Pecker” by its creator, the piece is far more than a birdhouse. It’s a sculpture or an installation in and of itself. “Pecker” is a good likeness of a chicken or perhaps a rooster. Its flesh tones and speckled texture give it a vibrant presence, one equally at home in a country kitchen downstate or an avante garde condo on Michigan Avenue. On the whole, I think it’s a solid piece of sculpture in any medium and I’d be lucky to pull off anything that would look half as good.
Now that, dear readers, is a pretty lame art review. If feel like Jen deserves more. Maybe if I acted like a snooty, snobby, art aficionado, I could render a more erudite appraisal of “Pecker.” So here goes…
(donning a black turtleneck, pouring an espresso…or a martini…or both)
At face value, “Pecker” forcibly drags our attention to a pre-industrial, agrarian age. A time when our minds were tabula rasa, closer to nature and further from comfort. The act of this itself may make the piece postmodern as well. Yet of immediate interest is the choice of tone and hue that the artist committed to using. The impassioned reds, the flesh-pink body freckled with imperfections as any living subject would be. Note the rounded, bulbous shapes that abound in the piece, from the smooth head to the phallic curves of the beak. Euclid would have blushed. Is this an attempt at eroticism? Are we meant to be aroused by “Pecker?”
I’m certain that Camille Paglia might have something to say on this matter, but sexuality is not the only theme present in the piece (although it is a pronounced and throbbing one.) In fact, it is juxtaposed with sheer terror. Look at the black and conical eye. See how hollow it is? How sinister in that it resembles a hardened shelter for a nuclear missile? This, I believe, is not by chance.
The artist is making a political statement here in “Pecker.” “Pecker” the chicken can see his own future. He is aware of his destiny and he knows it in frightening lucidity. He knows where he is going.
The artist then has made a profound statement on animal rights but she has tempered it with hope. Note that the pupil of the eye is shaped as a heart. This may indicate the eye looking forward to a time where humans and other animals live in harmony and not in a cycle of exploitation where one man can glutch animals by the score. This juxtaposition of themes and the ensuing nuances point towards a larger truth in the human experience. How thin is the line between pleasure and pain? How kindred are fear and arousal?
In summary of “Pecker” by Jen Hernandez Banys, I must quote Jack Nicholson from 1989’s Batman:
“Oh I don’t know if it’s art…but I like it!”
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