Artist Portfolios > Alex Kuno

Some Words So Far About
“Miscreants of Tiny Town And The Uncanny Valleys”

By Alex Kuno

When I started the Miscreants of Tiny Town series back in 2007, satirizing our culture’s unfounded fears of/perverse desires for Armageddon was kind of an afterthought, as I’ve used the series’ apocalyptic themes primarily to parody my own slew of anxieties and self-doubts. Years later, while producing work for three consecutive and eerily well-received solo shows in galleries throughout Minneapolis and Saint Paul in the early part of 2012, I realized that a lot of my viewers were drawn to my work not just because they wanted to laugh off apocalyptic paranoia, but it started to seem like they were finally coming to terms with the sad inevitability of it. The skies were getting rustier, my landscapes were getting scabbier, and the outcomes of my characters were overtly dire. Still, one of the prevalent themes running through these early 2012 shows was that an apocalypse couldn’t exist without survivors. I thought there was hope in that sentiment somewhere.

After all that dour cynicism, I was really eager to get to work on this “Uncanny Valleys” show at Chicago’s Curly Tale Fine Art. It’s my first solo show outside of the Twin Cities, so I wanted to take the opportunity to break out of the bleakness of the Minnesota Spring shows and experiment with new colors, techniques and environments. The new characters, I thought, were the scrappy new breed of adventurers, survivors of some hypothetical disaster back in Tiny Town. I wanted them to dip their toes into new worlds and find their own way around.

And then, while constructing the pieces and compiling ideas for all these exciting new adventures, I was blindsided by the news that a relative and close personal friend was suddenly diagnosed with a fatal cancer. These fun and inviting new horizons I had originally intended immediately became heaving, mutated outcroppings. Bright new skies became a sickly fluorescent. The colorful trees and flowers I sketched out were now threatening predatory creatures, occasionally even sprouting from the bodies of some of my figures. And these intrepid new explorers I created are now stranded and lost; their equipment is damaged, their knees are skinned, and they’re left yearning to return to the world they tried to leave.

At this point in our history, cancer has become so commonplace that as far as disasters go, it’s a fairly mundane one. Cancer is also a mutation, and mutations accelerate the process of evolution. And evolution isn’t necessarily an “improvement,” it’s just a series of changes. However, when we get the rare opportunities to be present enough to notice the paths of our lives changing under our feet, it’s an odd gift. Moments like those teach us that we can indeed travel through time, to pay tribute to the adventure of our own survival. I guess there’s hope in that sentiment, too.