How We Got from Buffalo Hump to Knuckle Bombs

30 x 30" acrylic on canvas 2015

30 x 30″ acrylic on canvas 2015

For the past year or two my girlfriend Liv has been studying biology and chemistry, and back when this new series of paintings was just starting to take form I overheard a video she was watching mention something about moon face and buffalo hump, which I guess are terms used to describe some not-great physical conditions that people suffer from when they have certain illnesses. I started to think of the new paintings as the Buffalo Hump series, but I didn’t think that showed much compassion for people affected by the symptom, so once the series really gelled and I had enough paintings to start showing them I asked Liv to help me figure out a better name for the series. 

What I liked about buffalo hump was it has a sort of mutagenic implication, like the beast from Beauty and The Beast crossed with the Hunchback of Notre Dame, but also a sort of stoic, majestic quality like the literal buffalo, the great plains, buffalo nickels, et cetera. Liv latched on to the cellular quality of a lot of the elements in the new paintings, and we thought that should somehow be referenced or implied. I picked up on the word nuclear, which kind of has it all. A nucleus is a defining part of a nucleated cell, which is like every kind of living cell other than red blood cells. Atoms also have nuclei and in most every day contexts nuclear is used as an adjective to describe power plants that make power by taking atoms apart, research to fuse atoms together, or wars that lead to a generation of buffalo humped recluses.

But just calling it the Nuclear Series would be to obvious, and frankly too open to political interpretation. There are two directions you can go from Nuclear, owing to the different ways the word is pronounced in American English. The intellectual set will generally insist that it is pronounced like the words “new” and “clear”, as in “new clear energy”, while the aw shucks political set often likes to pronounce it like “nuke-yuh-lar”. I tend to say nuke-yuh-lar if I don’t remember to think “new-clear” ahead of time. So I thought maybe “New Clear Fusions” would be a good name, but that’s a little too clean and while these paintings are shiny they are not polished. I almost went with “Knuckler Bombs” because knuckler sounds kind of like nuke-yuh-lar, but then Liv wrote it down as Knuckle Bomb and that hits it right on the nose.

Knuckles are sort of twisted, they are a weird body part that we all have but nobody thinks about. Putting it next to Bomb does bring out its phonetic relationship to the word “nuclear” but not in a way that is obvious at all, and the bomb is a destructive device but also things that release tremendous amounts of energy all at once, and there is an explosive quality to the work.

It’s a playful name that actually goes pretty deep.