excerpt from catalog essay
by Dominique Nahas
on 2018 exhibition "To You, The View To Me", Beacon ,NY
"Don Doe’s artwork with its Surrealist inflections, by contrast, points to the marvelous, to time (and to the sacred) in an altogether different sense. His work takes over the term the “marvelous” as applied by both Andre Breton and Georges Bataille in the sense that both thinkers referred to it as a world transformed through the effects of coincidence. Yet Doe’s sensibility, with its nod to the Bataillean monstrous, with its attendant unapologetic gruesome facticity, its contradictory tension shot through with lacerating desire is of the Bataillean type of surrealism, a hyper-excessive “extreme surrealism” genre which exudes and stresses irreconcilable contradiction and asserts Bataille assertion towards de-formation and rejection of Bretonian will to ennobling transfiguration. Don Doe’s inclusion of intimacy and opposition in his composite figures reiterates Bataille’s understanding of art that “…proceeds by successive destructions.” The quality of time that is felt in Don Doe’s work, one might argue, has affinities with Bataille’s understanding of temporal flow that emanates out of the condition of the sacred, an understanding that is in direct contrast to that of a religious person in the traditional sense whose sense of self, through the sacred, is lifted out of the world of time and change and into the realm of eternity structured by timeless paradigms and populated by unchanging archetypes. Instead, as Bataille understood the sacred, it involves the individual in a terrified and exhilarated experience of “horror-spreading time” and an acute awareness of the “deleterious absurdity of time.”
> > > Doe’s sculptural work is an intense investigation of otherness and its limits. His work involves multiple narratives aroused by the fusion of limbs, sexualities, identities seems to echoes George Bataille’s claim that at the moment man wishes to designate himself he has “…instantly to put on the mask of another…Man is not himself until he has mutilated himself, revealed in himself the contradiction of life and death that simultaneously animates and annihilates him.” Don Doe’s sculptures, with their celebration of the body, the animalistic, the bestial, and gender transvaluation and of the human impulse towards the disgusting, a lancing or piercing of the regulated self and subjectivity… through his use of human bodies or parts of bodies grafted upon each other have a remarkable pull on me.
> > I see Doe’s art as a configuring and de-figuring exercise in which he attempts to optimize his aesthetic’s mental, emotional and psychic charge by creating a riotous bricollage of bodies. This brings us philosophically speaking into the domain of questioning the self and its makeup while pointing to how de-centered the self (or the sense of self) is. Doe’s forms are three-dimensionalized poetic fragments that recall Walt Whitman’s famous incantation from Leaves of Grass: “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself; (I am large, I contain multitudes).” Furthermore, Doe’s work comes out of a mind that thrives on pitting together codes of cultural coherency with those of deviancy, the improvisational and the elliptical. The result is a visual experience for the viewer that is sustained by mixed emotions, mixed thoughts and not a small amount of mystery. What makes Doe’s work so successful in my eyes is its very resistance to interpretation. In this regard Wallace Stevens makes a remark that underpins all creative endeavors: “The poem must resist the intelligence almost successfully.” > > At the Dove Tail Joint (2015) is a good example of this resistance. Doe concentrates the eye on a main character, the girl with the hat sitting on a fence while two different female body parts (one of them, a torso, seems to hover in mid air) somehow dovetail while seeming to emanate out of the main character’s chest. Doe’s sculptural susceptibilities allow for a constant shift between figuration and abstraction, while constantly keeping the viewer off balance as the actual and the metaphorical in the work seem to play off of each other.
> > I am fascinated on various levels, intrigued on others and I am sure that this is because Doe works are complexly woven, ideationally speaking. His figural sculptures are ridden with internal contradictions. They are restlessly alive, filled with vitality as they resolutely refuse to be held down by easy dialectical play of acceptable dualities or normative opposites that dance in a state of equitable tension--- itself a product of the deviation of norms and of the social order. I think, broadly speaking, Doe’s aesthetic work interrogates the very basis of what constitutes the sanctioned poles of contention that produce disorder, deviation, and the transgressive, particularly as they relate to hot-button issues today centered around sexuality, behavioral norms, and transexuality.
> > Don Doe’s composite body-forms, combined with the expressions on the faces of his subjects, are endlessly fascinating as they are so unexpected, so unanticipated. They swerve off the regular course of how things are to be done, they eliminate, they decimate the expected and the cliché, inserting in their place the equivocal, the oblique, the unsettling alloying of the grotesque with the sentimental, the bookish, the romantic, the pedestrian. In Doe’s sculpture A Girl Leans (2016), for example, the artist pushes the boundaries of the body-container, elasticizes it as it deforms to accommodate the feminine and the masculine ethos, both. While doing so the sculptor balances sweetness and delicacy along with a type of broad, even vulgar dimension of eroticism. Doe sustains this libidinal system by keeping alive a touch of historicism, an awareness of style, posture and dress that bespeaks, in this case, of Romanticism (petticoats and frockcoats and rides on the moor and all that) as he simultaneously weaves into the mixture (of within it all of the ingredients, all of the incongruous, mismatched elements) a heightened amalgamated sensations of horror, strangeness, delight. His inference of classical and baroque sculpture suffused with mythological dramas often forms the basis for his freewheeling use of migratory and mismatched bodies. And the double theme of passion and desire, thwarted or not, seems to pervade much of his work. Interjecting bodies or body parts as if they have somehow sprouted together for unknown or indirect reasons allows Doe to suggest narratives and counter narratives in his work along with digressions that may or may not be or seem relevant to the overall thrust of the work. In so doing Doe charges the air around his work with meaning, inducing a destabilized atmosphere of mind that in turn produces poetic vibrancy. "