Take the values, simplicity, and everyman innocence of Norman Rockwell’s cover illustrations for the Saturday Evening Post, shake them around and throw them on their heads. Add a touch of modernity, calamity, stress, and the stereotypical American dream workforce attire, and you’ve got Inverted Utopias.
Giant wooden figures grasp for the sky with half of their torsos still submerged beyond the floorboards. Their expressions range from fear to tranquility. Other figures are completely out of normal position, their bodies upside down, or gnarled in other positions. Ties flail wildly as men in suits are in suspended animation, falling from the ceiling. Housewives in aprons kneel, holding platters of food. Many of the figures are larger than life-size, but still not huge (think Freud in Red Square), making them even eerier.
Another section of the exhibit features a line of busts with removable mouths and eyes, all in different expressions. Their wooden heads are screwed together with metal with some gaping open at the seams.
Trotman’s attention to detail in the sanding and finishing of these human figures is amazing. Each one looks life-like despite all the contortions and disconcerting gazes. They’re comprised of many kinds of wood, including poplar, basswood, and pine. The finishing is wax, paint and tempera, giving the statues a soft tone.
Inverted Utopias is definitely clever in its social commentary. The quintessential successful business model is completely thrown awry, skewing images of our model of triumph. The models in the exhibit are powerless and confused, like they’ve been tossed into a void of self-reflection too deep to handle.
Trotman said of his work, “I’m sure we can all call to mind the idealized, utopian version of American life as offered by Norman Rockwell in the pages of the Saturday Evening Post,” he says. “With my wooden figures, I’m making an inverted version of that picture, a dystopian America, where ambiguity replaces certainty.”
The exhibit serves as an inaugural event to a section of the NCMA devoted to putting a spotlight on local artists. Trotman is from Winston-Salem, NC and his work has been featured in museums across the country. In his artists statement, he says, “As a figurative sculptor my concern is the exploration, interpretation, and representation of the human body as a primal medium for projecting thought and feeling: in the expressive language of its poses and dress, its gestures, its facial expressions, and in its disposition in relation to its surroundings. Of the many possibilities open to me, I am most interested in expressions of alienation: alienation of the self from society, from the physical environment, and even of the self from itself.” Inverted Utopias holds true to this sentiment, causing the viewer to reflect on what values our society holds and those we hold, ourselves.
For more of his work, check out his website at www.bobtrotman.com.