photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
i first became aware of CLEVELAND-based artist DEREK HESS by way of the album covers he produced in the early 2000s for ascending POST-HARDCORE bands, notably CONVERGE and UNEARTH among many others. his EXPRESSIONISTIC, SKELETAL drawings often depicted CONTORTED, faceless bodies in a moment of PHYSICAL and SPIRITUAL DISCONNECT. i found his work to be emotionally charged and unflinchingly VISCERAL. like CARAVAGGIO, its art that is very much concerned with the individual's connection to the PHYSICAL BODY as a vessel that bears intense emotions of ANXIETY, GRIEF, SORROW, REGRET and PAIN. in many ways, it fit the potent HONESTY and PATHOS of those albums like hand in glove.
FORCED PERSPECTIVE: THE STORY OF ARTIST DEREK HESS (COAT OF ARMS, 2013) is a poignant documentary that reveals the artist and his connection to not only art as CATHARSIS, but art also as a vehicle for DISCOVERY and CONNECTION. it tracks his evolution from comic book aficionado to trained figure artist to concert poster designer to celebrated fine artist and serial entrepreneur whose work is part of the LOUVRE's collection among others. it really is quite the career trajectory but the essence of this film is not so much on his career milestones, but his dual connection with the CLEVELAND-based cultural scene he helped nurture and foster as well as his own relationship with his SOBRIETY and BIPOLAR DIAGNOSIS. coming to AUTHENTIC, hard-fought terms with his own physical limitations and learning of the impact his actions have on those around him is at the heart of what this film is about. it is the basis and foundation from which his art can develop and self-renew without being clouded by CHEMICAL DEPENDENCIES. his work is so powerful it almost requires an UNBLINKING, unadulterated gaze straight into the soul. his work is the seeming very definition of SOBRIETY in how it depicts and evokes the COMPROMISED PHYSICAL and SPIRITUAL nature of the HUMAN CONDITION without wincing or turning away. it shows the distance between our ASPIRATIONAL selves and our own dreary reality as is. and that DUALITY is something i very much appreciate about HESS' work.
i had no idea going in how much an inspiration SILVER AGE OF COMICS pioneer GIL KANE had on his work, especially with his dramatic use of foreshortening and forced perspective in order to evoke scale in a representational composition. KANE and his peers utilized such techniques as a narrative device in order to draw the viewer into the PSYCHODRAMA at play in the comic book. it feels like HESS utilized such as an EXTREME means of depicting INTERNAL, often SELF-DIRECTED CONFLICT at scale. its an INVENTIVE and CLEVER inversion.
ultimately HESS' ability to visually depict powerful INTERNAL PROCESSES related to INTENSE EMOTIONS is what he is renowned and celebrated for. in that he is a SINGULAR visionary. this film gets at the man behind the artist and his own personal struggles that feed his art. i found this documentary to be quite courageous in its depiction of HUMAN FRAILTY and would recommend to anyone interested in art as well as recovery from CHEMICAL DEPENDENCY and MENTAL HEALTH-related issues.
there is no stigma. only the determination to be yourself and showcase your own truth.