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“Mending” Humanity

“World without Sun, by Christine Davis, Toronto” by VicPhotos is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Nathaniel Mary Quinn is an artist from Chicago best known for his artistic compositions where he constructs abstract human portraits using different images and drawings to form a collage-like work of art.

One of his pieces, titled Mend, depicts a person made up of various different artistic mediums and styles. Feel free to look it up yourself if you are curious, or just click the link here. Quinn uses charcoal, gouache, pastels, and oil paint to create the painting, and the diversity of the materials he used shows in the different textures and piece-mail like cut-outs that form the picture.

When I first saw the painting, my attention was immediately pulled to the face. Probably because it had the most going on in terms of visual interest, and also because I had never seen anything like it before. I was instantly mesmerized by the details and complexity of the piece, and found myself trying to decipher what Quinn was trying to say.

I then showed the picture to my mom for a second opinion, and she furrowed her brows, squinted her eyes, and with a tilt of her head said “what is this supposed to mean?”

And hence, I got to writing this post.

I did not dig into the career or life of the artist, that is a rabbit hole for another time, and instead relied solely on my observations and thoughts about the piece to construct what I believe to be the message of Quinn’s painting. The fact that only the face is what has the most happening and is comprised of a collage of different artistic styles is symbolic of how we as humans are shaped by the people we love and learn from. I have the same crease in my brow as my mother when I am confused or frustrated, and I cross my 7s the same way my grandfather does when he taught me mathematics in elementary school. At my first glance (well, in all honesty, at my second, third, fourth glances too) Mend also has this interesting motif of how the human consciousness, in its essence, contains different dimensions and multitudes. Walt Whitman said it best, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.” We are not flat, singular beings. We are the most advanced and intelligent life we know of (at least on Earth), and we are also the single greatest apex predators and threat to other living things on the very same planet. We have different faces, and different parts, we have physical bodies, and spiritual minds and souls. We each have different purposes and callings in life, and all of our different experiences unite us in one thing — it makes us human. I think Mend is a beautiful ode to the fundamental complexities and multi-dimensional aspects to people, and I look forward to learning more about the artist himself in the future.