Todd Pinkham’s paintings, rich with imagery of heroes, deities, and monsters, act as translators for all the things his conscious mind cannot yet grasp. In Pinkham’s paintings virtue and vice are constantly in battle. The visual graffiti Pinkham creates allows for multiple voices in the narratives of his paintings. Each voice projects an identity with a different moral compass to choose from and explore. Pinkham’s artistic process creates the space for him to construct conscious views of himself. Mediators between the spiritual and natural world, his paintings provide him with solutions to problems afflicting his misguided soul.
The paintings in his series Laughing While Levitating present the viewer with all the imagery Pinkham views as inherent in the fabric of the cosmos. Specifically, he chose to revisit his childhood intrigue with the magic and pure escapism associated with the coloring books of H.R. Pufnstuf. In these paintings, Pinkham layers the coloring book line work over his more traditional painted imagery of landscapes and figures. The process of contrasting the decorative line work, characteristic of ancient painting, with the structure and precision of painterly realism unlocks Pinkham’s ability to explore his subconscious and determine how it influences his actions. Pinkham’s paintings often portray himself or the metaphor of himself, the hyena. The hyena is a scavenger, shamelessly preying on the higher values set by the rulers of civilized cultures. They are meant to stand in contrast to the follies of the civilized, the moral compass that interprets the manner in which spiritual concepts like cosmic justice exists in the world. As a painter caught between characteristics of the Pop Artists and the Abstract Expressionists, Pinkham scavenges imagery to fashion his own ideas. His paintings incorporate imagery of mass culture in a hubris way, but more importantly, his process redefines what it means to create art.
Born in Meyersdale in Somerset County, Pinkham received his BFA in Painting from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and his MFA in Painting from Rochester Institute of Technology. He is an Associate Professor of Painting at California University of Pennsylvania where he encourages his students to create individualized artwork through observational painting. An active “burner” known as Hyena, Pinkham has pilgrimaged to Black Rock City for eight years. In 2007, he created Visual Oasis, a 30-foot painted dome for the Burning Man Festival. In addition to exhibiting his paintings, Pinkham also creates limited-edition clothing with upcycled materials through his street-ware company Hyena Karkasses.
View images from Todd Pinkham's 2016 BoxHeart Exhibit, Laughing While Levitating.