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Walton Ford in "Humor"

A voracious reader of colonial letters and diaries, Walton Ford is fascinated by the fear and wonder of nature that he finds in historical texts. “The big thing I’m always looking for in my work is a sort of attraction-repulsion, where the stuff is beautiful to begin with until you notice that some sort of horrible violence is about to happen or is in the middle of happening.”

Commenting on a large watercolor depicting a frenzy of birds falling with a massive branch, he explains that the birds are “satisfying all their lusts…as they are going down.” Contrasting the romanticized tradition of Audubon with the destructive qualities of existence, Ford merge a dreamlike vision with a frenetic and comic reality.

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Walton Ford

Blending depictions of natural history with political commentary, Walton Ford’s meticulously painted large-scale watercolors satirize the history of colonialism and the continuing impact of slavery and other forms of political oppression on today’s social and environmental landscape. Each painting is as much a tutorial in flora and fauna as it is as a scathing indictment of the wrongs committed by nineteenth-century industrialists or—locating the work in the present—contemporary American consumer society.

“The big thing I’m always looking for in my work is a sort of attraction-repulsion, where the stuff is beautiful to begin with until you notice that some sort of horrible violence is about to happen or is in the middle of happening.”

Walton Ford

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Artist Walton Ford discusses his work’s relationship to colonialism and political humor.