Mark Ryden
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Studio Image

Artist Statements

"The Tree Show" - Mar 2007

"Wondertoonel" - Oct 2004

"Anima Mundi" - Sep 2001

"Meat" - Oct 2001

"The Meat Show" - Oct 1998


Mark Ryden and the Snow Yak

Mark Ryden's Return to Nature

In the Pink of the Carnivalesque

At Play in the Slaughterhouse
of American Pop

Tracing the connections between
Bunnies, Bees, and Abe Lincoln
Artist Statement - "mEAT" - october 2001

I've been asked over and over why I paint meat. I suppose I have to admit one of the reasons I like to paint meat is because people do wonder about it so much. There are actually many reasons.

We are creatures of pure energy and "Meat" is the element that keeps us here. I think about how "Meat" was once part of a beautiful living creature that has then become an inanimate "substance" that we treat with little regard or awareness of what it once was. It was once alive. Recently the Austrian artist Flatz made the news when he dropped a dead cow from a helicopter in Berlin. I don't care much for this kind of "shock" art but there was a very interesting part of the story. An animal loving teenager attempted to legally stop the performance. The court rejected the complaint because the cow had the legal status of food. That fascinates me. At what exact point does the animal cross the line and become meat?

From the Bible, Matthew 26:26 "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, Take, eat; this is my body." I have found this Bible verse the source of much curiosity. It is a bizarre ritual Catholics partake in each Sunday as they eat the body of Christ in communion. The literal interpretation of this can be the source of endless visuals from the humorous to the horrific.

There is an obvious horror connected with the meat industry: the blood, the gore, the inhumane butchery. So many of us indirectly participate in this with our ravenous consumption of meat. Sue Coe has explored that arena exquisitely in her work and writings. In my own art I am not personally making a statement or judgment about the meat consumption in our culture. I feel more like I am just observing it. Just like T-rex, I myself am a passionate meat-eater. I feel that the consumption of animal flesh is a natural primal instinct, just like sex and making paintings. But there is that paradox of knowing how that scrumptious porterhouse made it to my dinner plate. We have lost any kind of reverence for this. It would be interesting if people would have to kill an animal themselves before they earned the right to eat it.

Beyond the conceptual impact, meat simply has a very strong visual quality. The wonderful variety of textures and patterns in the marbling of the meat is sumptuous. Subtle pinks gently swirl around with rich vermillions and fatty yellow ochres. These visual qualities alone are seductive enough to make meat the subject of a work of art. Meat is glorious to paint. It is so easy to transcend the representational to the abstract. Meat has been a subject for painters from Rembrandt to Van Gogh.


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