In the Daydream Spaces of Scott Radke
When asked to explain some of his artwork during an interview with Arrested Motion, Scott Radke said, “A lot of what I do is like daydreaming. If you’re a writer, I imagine you would daydream in stories and words, but mine are more image oriented — shapes, colors, animals, faces, and textures. I just clump them all together and add and subtract along the way until something feels balanced and complete.”
Scott Radke draws, paints, and creates marionettes and sculptures that are haunting and utterly unique. Some people might be quick to describe them as otherworldly, but I think they’re perfectly at home here in this world. They simply inhabit spaces that most of us don’t even notice, let alone occupy. Actually, I think the best way to describe creatures made from daydreams is to daydream about meeting them myself.
While I can easily envision some of Radke’s creatures inhabiting urban environments, I think a firsthand encounter would most likely occur in a more natural setting. Perhaps I’ve lost my way while hiking in the woods or perhaps I’m wending my way through an overgrown labyrinth. Maybe I’m just out exploring some sort of crumbling, mossy ruins, as one does. Wherever I might be, Radke’s creatures wouldn’t simply pop out of hiding and greet me; Instead they would keep themselves out of sight, well aware of my presence, occasionally peeking out from safe shadowy spots, observing me with interest to see if I merit concern or closer attention.
Eventually I would begin to feel like something was watching me. Perhaps I would just barely discern a presence or slight movement in the periphery of my vision, but nothing would be visible when I turn to look. Assuming Radke’s creatures found me sufficiently interesting, they would follow me discreetly and study me carefully, taking their time deciding if I was approachable. Being alone would be key — alone and quiet.
If a few of them drew closer so that I was able to clearly see their full forms, my eyes would immediately be drawn to their striking and enormously expressive faces — with features similar enough to our own to feel familiar, yet so unusual as to demand extra attention in order to fully understand their expressions. Their heads might tilt and turn in an owl-like fashion as they quietly scrutinize me while I do my best to remain perfectly still. I don’t imagine that Radke’s creatures would be likely to speak to me. It’s not that I fancy they’d be mute, but I do think that speech would be something reserved only for interactions with each other. Theirs would be an arcane, earthy language spoken softly and without hurry.
So while their voices might be silent in my daydream, their faces and, when they have them, their hands seem to be incredibly expressive. Radke’s creatures have simple bodies. When not in some sort of animal form (and I’m inclined to believe that these creatures would be fully capable of shape-shifting), they tend to be rudimentary and impish. If not a fish’s fins, bird’s talons or rabbit’s paws, they’re as likely to have small vestigial limbs as they are delicate hands with which to gracefully gesture or tenderly wield a precious object.
Because Radke’s creatures are so quiet, reading their facial expressions is very important. At a glance one might find their faces to be quite similar to each other. While I think they do often share a sort of sage world-weariness or melancholy, it’s important to examine each face carefully, because each actually has a very unique expression. Some appear sorrowful or worried, while others wear less guarded expressions and look inquisitive or even amused. Perhaps they are bearers of primeval wisdom. I think they could be keepers of secrets, both secrets that are theirs alone and secrets whispered to them by strangers such as myself.
If I was lucky, perhaps one of these mysterious little beings would eventually decide to draw very close, look deep into my eyes – almost daring me to look away. If I didn’t, if I was able to hold its gaze, then it would cock its head to the side, extending the invitation of a patient, receptive ear. I would slowly lean over, close my eyes, and begin to share my secret. And I wouldn’t have the faintest idea what I was going to say until the words began to leave my lips, almost of their own accord – as though they were being drawn out of me by the very presence of Scott Radke’s rare and wonderful creatures.