MICHAEL PAJON, A Beat of the Heart, A Flick of the Tongue, 2013, mixed media collage on antique book cover
By D. Eric Bookhardt
Hindsight has a way of offering a new view of human experience. Life in the moment can be a hustle, sometimes exhilarating but often oscillating between frantic and boring. Collage artists enjoy an Olympian perspective that enables them to utilize the symbols and icons of the past for their own purposes, and Michael Pajon excels at mining rich veins of vintage pop culture for any transcendent epiphanies they might contain. Like his Chicago mentor, Tony Fitzpatrick, Pajon is big on vintage Americana fraught with euphemistic irony, but his mystical Hispanic DNA seems well adapted to the swampy voodoo vibe of his adopted hometown. In this aptly named Palimpsest series, his collage drawings explore how myths represented in vintage pop culture live on in the present.
A Beat of the Heart, A flick of the Tongue (pictured) features the sort of high Victorian beauty who appeared as a kind of popular pin-up girl in places ranging from Storyville bordellos to the frontier saloons of the Gold Rush, sometimes juxtaposed with the American eagle as seductive symbols of manifest destiny. But beauty and strength were often elusive in the mad, death-defying scramble to settle the old West, and here Pajon’s beauty, flanked by a turkey buzzard and snakes, sports the tattoos of a circus or side-show performer. Today, deadly crossings of barren desert wastes are still undertaken, but the new pioneers are mainly migrants fleeing dystopian homelands ruled by armed gangs and drug cartels. In Hands Remember What the Heart Forgets, the so-called “Hand of Power” — that near-universal mojo symbol for the sudden quantum, death-defying leap of faith or luck — appears pierced with a dagger and has flames flaring from its fingernails. Emerging from a serpent-infested flower labeled “Love,” and flanked by horseshoes, crescent moons, spiders and songbirds, it is a reminder that despite all the technology with which we now surround ourselves, life and love are still mysterious, and destiny remains a roll of the dice.