OXIDE is a work of fiction. Its world, like ours, accumulicates on its surfaces a record of human actions, ideas, successes and failures, modified by time and natural forces. You might think of this book as describing the setting for a larger fictional work that hasn’t been written yet. You are welcome to write it.
SUBMITTED LATE [stamped authoritatively on this statement card]
Open the fairy-tale like volume that is OXIDE (UO Digital Arts professor Craig Hickman’s latest literary and photographic endeavor) and, immediately, you are submerged in a flow of words and images, a suspended reality. What appears to be handwritten, minion-like text, line after line, bulletted listings of what are phrases inspired by paint chip color names (plumbago blue diablo winds, yellow green ice fog, eggplant sargasso sea, salmon pink mammatocumulus—words so deliciously descriptive I could go on and on… but I digress) methodically march in precise lines around photographs of cityscapes, open spaces, signage, sides of buildings—spaces author Craig Hickman sees as “open spaces waiting for something.” Into this void of open spaces, Hickman has slipped a sort of handwriting on the wall: a caveat of imposed and introduced (digitally, of course) words and images meant to provoke, inspire, and shift the viewer’s comfort level. It must be noted that the text is curiously peppered with an artistic license in which words like “accumulicates” and “ficticous” are brandished about with confidence. In addition, take, for example, the image of a glass store front that has “Department of Journalism” and the entire store front covered in newsprint. Or the building facade reading “City Hall” and below “School of Art and Pugilism” (pugilism is boxing). Things are not always as they appear, or at least, the addition of very carefully chosen words catapults a relatively lonely, quiet, and solitary image into something slightly odd, humorous, off tilt, perhaps mildly disruptive. And, that is intentional.
Sometimes a certain poignancy is revealed such as in the “College of Hard Knocks”: words superimposed on the driverside door of a rusting, abandoned, leaf-covered car. These are images meant to tell a story but in a quirky and “getting things a little wrong”-type way, says Hickman. OXIDE is a “collection of the misunderstood”, providing a pulchritudinous exploration of how the addition of words to a relatively commonplace image can provoke feelings and compel us to feel shifty, momentarily awkward, unsure or just plain pensive. You will see Hickman’s “Department of English | Classroom in a Box” (Hickman assures us the QR code on this absolutely works!) and you might concur with the author’s assertion that this work “relates to a consistency in the real world…and a level of comfort and recognition.” But at the same time, decidedly, and nostalgically, odd.
The handscripted phrases of color swarm though this book, relentlessly reminding us of what must relate to Hickman’s fascination with color, small bits, dimunitive pieces of information that contain volumes of meaning, digital-like, dare we say, even pixel-like. OXIDE falls in right along with Hickman’s one-book-every-ten-years pattern as this artist continues to delve into the complex and intriguing realm of combining and manipulating text, image, and thought. In OXIDE it is a computer program that hatched up the lines of paint chip fabricated color eloquence presenting it as simple lines of handwriting a deception that encourages us to question what we see, to examine what is put before us.
Thus, the “ficticous” world author | artist Craig Hickman is so fond of exploring is created and we are so provoked as to scrutinize these pages—they are fascinating. Hickman who terms himself the “unreliable narrator”, has given us a murmuration-like experience with words. In OXIDE, Hickman’s fantasy world is as pretty as a picture, but with so much more meaning.
[Quotes in this article are from an interview with the author of this blog piece, Sabina Samiee and OXIDE author, Craig Hickman. Sabina is indebted to Professor Hickman for speaking with her about his new book.]
Craig Hickman is currently the primary professor in situ at the Portland location for the University of Oregon BFA Digital Arts Program at the School of Architecture and Allied Arts | White Stag Block.
He has said he will put a copy of OXIDE on view in the Library ….go check it out.
by Craig Hickman
Copyright 2011 by Craig Hickman
Have a look around at some of Professor Hickman’s other projects on the following websites:
blog post and photos *unless otherwise captioned* by sabina samiee uo pdx communications