Diamond Bullets: Jeff Jordan & Tony Machado
October 3 - November 7, 2006
Two Diamond Bullets by Samantha Dory
Diamond bullets—objects of pristine beauty,
ultra-hard and piercing, poetic projectiles intended
to generate a profound effect upon an individual’s
consciousness. This visual and verbal collaboration of Jeff Jordan and Tony Machado, embodies the essence of their life
experiences and perspectives—compressed to transform the canvas into a vehicle driving awareness. Diamond Bullets aims to express these perspectives through acute examintion of the beautiful and the murky. Jordan illustrates destructive effects of unreliable science
and technology while underscored by themes that explore mystery and myth. Machado employs a compassionate vision and political perspective to describe the pressure of globalization on traditional, non-western cultures and the pressures of modernity on our own.
The work of Diamond Bullets encompasses friendship and a creative synthesis between two avid painters. The events in their lives run parallel and then converge like threads of a braid, from childhood influences to broader ideological themes—interweaving with similarities, a fusion of their ideologies. This propels them further in their visual conceptions. This continuum of mutual inspiration builds upon itself, prompting artistic growth. To maximize their creative outlet, both artists will work on several canvases in rotation; allowing for full culmination of a work’s subject and visual coherency.
Jordan paints in acrylic, working from handmade collages while contextually referencing political, scientific, technological and social issues. His delicate touch and masterful use of light create realist depictions of the unreal. While stylistically mirroring traditional surrealist masters such as Magritte, Dali and Delvaux, Jordan mixes in his own roots in underground comics.
His work combines a sense of outrage and irony with an ominous undertone. Interest in the individual spirit and human evolution over time prompt Jordan’s exploration of the strange, morphed and mythological. He enjoys the shared symbiotic relationship between his own personal evolution and that of his paintings. Jordan believes his job as an artist is to confuse and mystify the viewer. In this self-defined agenda, he feels an image is created correctly when its context is open. In capturing viewer’s attention through fantasy, wonder and the lure of the unknown, Jordan aims to provide an inspiration to unlock rigidity of one’s mind.
His painting entitled, Chestnut Mare, depicts five vibrant cowboys heartily engaged in the capture of a glowing, winged chestnut colored mare. The action takes place inside an arena, enclosed by a fence of espresso colored small tree trunks. Sections of the painting have a palette similar to that of comic illustration. The ground cover in the arena is a deep golden tangerine with shadows of the figures depicted in a vibrant sky blue. Apricot colored dust rises below the figures as they wrench on blue and golden entwined ropes wrapped around the mare’s legs. The figures are valiantly wrestling with this fabled creature as though clinging tenuously to a figment of the past or the imagination, in the hopes of keeping it alive in the face of reason — holding onto the mythical beliefs before they swiftly disappear into another dimension or are erased from our memory completely.
Jordan’s intriguing combinations of obscure images create a broad context for interpretation,
as showcased in the work entitled Hodeida. In this piece, a viewer may
interpret some of Jordan’s underlying thoughts about
cultural domination. This work depicts a Yemeni man pushing a wooden wheelbarrow through the streets of
Hodeida, Yemen with an enlarged bird skull in his
possession. The cityscape of Hodeida is pictured with
traditional large stucco buildings topped with
numerous satellite dishes and solar panels. The scientific
and technological references of these objects
contrasting with that of the native architecture could be viewed as a small form of outside cultural invasion; or simply the advancement of modern world technology
overriding an indigenous culture’s heritage. The
Yemeni man pushing the wheelbarrow is dressed in a mix of
traditional and western clothing, with the hallmarks of western consumer influence being depicted in a pair of
yellow goggles and red high top Converse sneakers. His face is painted white, reminiscent of zinc oxide — perhaps a
metaphoric protective barrier guarding aspects of his culture against impeding outside sources. These sources include, effects of increasingly damaging sun rays due to pollution and ozone depletion, as well as energy field rays transmitting from an influx of electronic equipment, heightening this inhabitant’s sensitivity and disturbing naturally serene areas. The enlarged bird skull at the focal point of the painting is a strong subject that incites investigation. The discrepancy in realistic magnitude of scale between the skull and that of the rest of the painting gives it a sense of greater significance. A seemingly larger voice needed for a dying breed, the dying breed being that of ancient cultural beliefs and extinction of native species; losing their importance in the overall cultural context of the area and their numeric representation, deafening a fading voice to silence. This enlarged skull could be viewed as an omen being carried by a messenger, from the native spirits of Yemen to the outside powers to take heed of the effects of their unconscious influence. The enlarged skull could also be a representation of a defective morph of a bird caused by the effects of bioengineering or the ongoing warfare near Yemen. These types of issues are becoming ever-increasingly common as evidenced by the Yemeni man who is wearing signifiers of an
ever-encroaching modernity. Jordan’s representation of Hodeida calls these issues to our attention in a visually vivid and contextually diverse manner while Jordan incorporates a healthy dose of humor.
The work entitled Awaken, seems to encompass in its
context and presentation the perfect intention of Diamond Bullets. It depicts the backside of an apparently nude,
sleeping woman, partially covered in a rich red and gold brocade comforter in her bed. The bed is teetered to one side and placed atop the tip of an illuminated peak rising precipitously out of the Grand Canyon. As the sun rises, a shimmering gold flows up one side of the mauve and sienna brown peak, highlighting the woman in her bed, a metaphor for the illumination of consciousness. In this revelation there is a heightened sense of awareness as the viewer can imagine the woman waking in her bed to find herself in an awkward, startling, yet immensely beautiful space. She may begin to question the manner in which she arrived there, the path taken; her psyche flooded with a volume of conflicting thoughts and emotions, questions beckoning a logical answer—sparking her own journey into awareness.
Jordan’s examination of societal issues through exploration of the imagination are complemented by Machado’s political examination of cultural disintegration.
Machado’s oil paintings begin as collages in his mind and develop from stimulating visuals referencing the infinite variety of beauty he finds in humanity. He deciphers his subconscious synthesis of images through the process and completion of each individual painting. Similar to the pages of a writer’s diary, his works document in time, a visual fusion of his personal experience and perception of the world around him.
Machado’s background as mural artist in the San
Francisco Bay Area provides his work with a
practiced political voice that illustrates the convergence of
different cultures, whose burgeoning mutual inability
to understand one another is portrayed as cultural
diversity dissolving into mainstream pop-culture. His realist
canvases depict the confluence of peoples and cultures that inhabit a brave new globalized world of fused identities and
disappearing traditions. Emanating empathy through a
tender vision of his subjects, his canvases capture the
effects of this “paving over cultures” as he calls it; engaging
the viewer by illuminating human emotions linked to our survival and self-expression. Machado creates anxiety in his paintings by placing blissful, optimistic figures in
culturally conflictive environments, causing discord to
radiate throughout. The dichotomies within these
paintings allow viewers to perceive the work on a
multi-dimensional level and derive their own
A great example of Machado’s conflictive messages can be seen in Fries and a Coke. A Nubian woman sits on a black and white African weaving, hands on her neck and cheek as if caught in a moment of astonishment,
laughing to herself, facing a bottle of Classic Coca-Cola and
a package of McDonald’s French fries. Set in a desert plain,
the notably western commercial food items create
apprehension for the viewer, generating questions about the source of the woman’s laughter or hysteria.
The piece entitled Nomads addresses political dominance in its inability to recognize and value cultural differences. It depicts a group of Taureg Bedouins crossing the desert in front of the Great Sphinx. Women on donkeys dressed in matching traditional clothing with the exception of one child, lead this caravan. Men follow on camels, all but one, dressed in white robes with black turbans and veils covering their mouths. A man solely facing the viewer, wears a teal colored robe. Upon first glance, the viewer
recognizes this figure may be key in offering some insight into this scene; his eyes windows of deeper connection for the
viewer to investigate. However, the windows opened through this character’s link to the viewer are suddenly sealed, as upon further examination the viewer recognizes this man is
wearing a pair of western, yellow sunglasses blocking
further survey into the focus of this portrait.
Looking at this depiction in the context of the Taureg Bedouins’ past, there comes a sense of understanding behind this subtly powerful gesture. The Taureg have been a long stigmatized group, especially by the French during the French Colonial period of North Africa in the 1860’s. The Taureg were represented by the French as elusive and powerful warriors, instilling heightened fear about them. Taureg, an Arabic word primarily given to the group by the French, with a translation of “forgotten by the gods”, does not suggest reverence or consideration for them. Along with other stereotypical attributions, this set in motion a “Taureg Myth”, which continues to stigmatize the group to this day. The French domination forced the Taureg to fight for valuable territory in the Sahara, which they had traditionally occupied and which was integral to their livelihood. Bearing this in mind, the use
sunglasses to abruptly shield surveying vision from the
outside, is a mockery in itself. Machado touches on a common theme throughout history, the erasure of cultures and the resulting defensive tactics that are forced onto
indigenous populations. This scene takes place in front of the Great Sphinx; a symbol for the ambition of Egyptian
culture and embodiment of its immense power. Over time, its eyes and nose have been defaced, signifying the demise of the
once-powerful ancient Egyptian culture. It continues to erode before our eyes, corroborating the subsequent cycle of cultural death and re-birth.
Machado’s eclectic world vision can be viewed in Past,
Present and Future, which encompasses elements from each time period given in the title. The viewer’s eye is
immediately drawn to a partially clothed depiction of Scarlett Johansson, an up and coming actress and sex symbol in the Western world. An illuminated, open orchid beside her arm, protected in a box, almost as if it’s a source of worship, compliments her gaze of certainty and vivaciousness. Behind her the late, great Hamza El Din a central figure in Nubian music, plays an oud, alluding to celebration in life. Machado includes a personal note in this painting with the depiction of his granddaughter dancing on top of a drum and wearing a dunce hat.
Similar to a common depiction of the fool in tarot decks, this image suggests that at some point, everyone is the fool; blinded by their bliss in the moment, not fully aware of their surroundings. The viewer’s eye is then pulled along an elevated superhighway suggestive of a futuristic vision, which runs behind Scarlett and through the body of the painting. Surrounding this super highway is an architecturally futuristic-looking city, primarily
composed of accentuated circular and semi-circular buildings, enclosed by water on one side. The city and Scarlett Johansson sit on yellow, lavender and plum stacked dice, resembling aerial views of city townhouses while acting as the left mid-section, a white life form attached to an arm reaches toward a glass-encased golden globe, which sits in front of an old television screen. The arm, covered in a thick white sleeve resembling cloud cover, reaches into the painting holding a golden goblet from the cups suit of the tarot deck. There are five streams of water flowing from the center of the top of the cup symbolizing
abundance as perceived through the five senses. A small golden crown from the crown suit of the tarot deck with an eye in the center floats above the golden goblet referencing an
all-seeing eye. In the sky a large World War II vintage plane flies above the city and two cropped faces of women are shown in diamond shapes. Encompassing the skyline is a circular band of white with yellow circles evenly spaced along the inside rim, reminiscent of aircraft landing pads or dimensional openings into other galaxies. In the upper-left corner, there is a frame depicting Alhambra-style architecture. With this mélange of elements it is as though the painting moves from the past, through the present and into the future using an eclectic mix of images for the viewer to reference. Like that of a tarot deck, the painting brings together diverse symbols referencing elements from myriad cultures. Machado mentioned wishing his granddaughter a future filled with abundance; perhaps signifying this painting as her own personalized tarot card.
The work of Diamond Bullets serves as a personal and social documentation of a point in time as well as a means to investigate complex thought. These artists offer a window into their perception of the world and the experiences that have shaped their lives. They discuss similar effects upon humanity from competing ideologies, science, technology and myth; while incorporating beauty, curiosity and humor. Diamond Bullets stands to heighten its viewer’s awareness of the surrounding world through the visual representation of a shared cognizant mind-set.
Underwriting support for the Diamond Bullets publications and general exhibition support comes solely from two anonymous angels whose benevolent dedication to the vision of
Jeff Jordan and Anthony Machado has also made possible special learning opportunities for our HSU students. Thank you angels - you have given this exhibition its wings!
This catalogue was entirely designed by an HSU intern at First Street Gallery. The production of this exhibition was a joint effort of Advisory Board community members, Becky Evans, Nina Groth, and Suzanne Simpson; First Street Gallery student assistants Erica Botkin, Diana Campos, Samantha Dory, Britta Gudmunson, Shantel Lindberg, Pearl Podgorniak,
Ryan Tuss; interns, David Ramirez, Jaqueline Smith, Arcata High School Art Intern Alice Woo, Professor Michele McCall-Wallace, exhibition consultant Brian Woida,
Professor JoAnne Berke and First Street Gallery Director Jack Bentley.
Very Special Thanks are extended to Curatorial Associate Samantha Dory.
Additional program support has been provided by Humboldt State University.
Special thanks are extended to community advisors Becky Evans, Nina Groth, Suzanne Simpson, and to the offices of Denice Helwig, Special Assistant to the President at
Humboldt State University.
Editor: Jack Bentley
Director, HSU First Street Gallery
Graphic Design by HSU Student Intern, Neil Techawongtham.
Printing by Times Printing, Eureka, California.
Photography by Times Printing, Eureka, California
Photographs ©2006, Anthony Machado
Photographs ©2006, Jeff Jordan
All contents ©2006, First Street Gallery, Humboldt State University, Arcata, California 95521.