You’d probably imagine that a kid coming of age in a small, Texas, swamp town in the ’80s would have no choice but to listen to country music and muck about in the bayous trying not to get eaten by alligators. But strangely enough, a different path opened to me, just as wide and easy and obvious as if it were the only one: punk f-ing rock. For whatever reason, Port Arthur, Texas, had a thriving punk rock culture in the ’80s, and I ate it up with youthful abandon. My friends and I skateboarded around the oil refineries, we went to Houston to see bands whose names were dorky acronyms (SNFU, DRI, MDC – I am not even kidding), and we drove around in our crappy, old cars blasting the most offensive music we could find as loud as we could.
And of all the offensive music we could find, the music of the Jesus Lizard [link N(entirely)SFW] was up there at the top of the list. Raw, atonal, screeching, profoundly obnoxious – the Jesus Lizard was dazzlingly rude. But secretly that was not my favorite thing about them. What really caught my attention was their album cover art. It was…exquisite. Disturbing. Masterful as a Renaissance oil painting, and almost as profound. What the fuck was a nasty band like the Jesus Lizard doing with album art like that?
Well, it turns out that the band was friends with a guy whose dad happened to be a world-class oil painter who was weird as hell and an incredibly good sport: Malcolm Bucknall. (Later I found out that Mr. Bucknall was my best friend’s uncle. They had me over to dinner one night in their grand, Victorian house in Austin, TX, and I nearly died of hero worship.)
Malcolm Bucknall’s paintings are massive studies in sensual, uncomfortable surrealism. He uses the painstaking techniques of traditional oil painters to graft animal heads onto the bodies of Elizabethan lords and ladies, like fairy tale characters lost in the twilight lands between worlds.
It’s easy to imagine the subjects of Bucknall’s paintings making deals for one another’s souls, or being tricked into giving up three wishes to eager heroes and heroines. His recent work has moved away from oils and into watercolor washes and line drawings, but it’s no less masterful and weird.
If you like Malcolm Bucknall’s work, you can peruse a rich, satisfying archive at his gallery site. He’s represented exclusively by D Berman in Austin, Texas, and there’s a decent interview with him on the site.