Whitewall magazine’s Winter issue features Walton Ford in one of the more interesting artist interviews I’ve ever read. Unfortunately, it’s only excerpted on their site. Meaning that you’ll have to buy the magazine to read it all, but let this snippet below entice you to find a distributor:
WW: Is the human in your work?
WF: It’s always there. There are cultural references in every single painting. Almost all the monkeys I’ve painted were peoples’ pets. I’ll have read a story about, say, a famous person — like Sir William Hamilton, the British ambassador to Naples in the 18th century. He had a pet monkey named Jack who died and was mourned like a human being. Jack’s role in Hamilton’s life was that of a sort of out-of-control court jester. He would grab male visitors by the testicles and then smell his hand. Here’s this man [Hamilton] who has to function as a courtier, with impeccable manners and diplomacy — but here’s his monkey, acting out in the wildest possible way. He loved Jack as much as he loved any person in his life. I’m not painting a monkey in nature — he likes to eat bananas or something. I painted Jack on his deathbed, this figure of 18th-century decadence, like he’s a dandy dying of syphilis. There’s a Greek sculpture of a naked boy on the table next to him, there’s a snuffed candle — a symbol of a life cut short — all this romantic imagery around him . . . and then Vesuvius is erupting in the background. I paint him as he was created by William Hamilton. It has nothing to do with the monkey. There isn’t a single painting that isn’t painted from a point of view similar to that, you see. And that’s where it drives me crazy when people think that I’m going to be some sort of person who loves animals, is [into] PETA or something. No, I’m only interested in people! King Kong isn’t a story until the chick shows up.