Daniel Maidman, An Octopus, oil on panel, 12"x12", 2013
Suckers, textured skin, the works - it took forever. It brought vividly to my mind an idea I have had, occasionally, for many years. I first had this idea when I stumbled on a sleeping chameleon in a hedge in Israel. The chameleon had turned white while sleeping, which seems like a poor idea from a survival perspective, but he's the professional. I had a chance to study him closely for a while. When he woke up, he turned green again.
He might not have been a he, I don't know.
The idea I had was this - human skin is fairly low in detail. We are low-detail organisms. Imagine if we had descended from lizards, or birds; if we had feathers or scales, or large-scale complex pigmentations, or involved edges. Our entire art history would have been different. We would either have had to commit more time to each picture and sculpture, or make due with a more stylized, reduced-detail visual paradigm from the very start.
Actually, reflecting on it now, my friend rupa dasGupta, who has been drawing an octopus every day since 2010, at the appropriately-titled http://anoctopusaday.tumblr.com/, has been confronting this problem continuously. Her project can be read as a set of experiments in the question of detail: its representation, interpretation, aesthetics, and reduction.
My thought is not a very interesting thought, because art would also be different if we could see the polarization of light, or ultraviolet, or radio. Or if oil were highly volatile. Or if the electron had a different mass.
I'm just saying. Feathers and scales. That would be fucked up.
Thank you very much.