Jon MacNair takes the classic conflicts- man vs. man, man vs. nature and man vs. self- and spins them into contemporary allegories, featuring a cast of original characters. Done mostly in ink, his body of work has snowballed into a highly distinct collection marked by subtle, wicked undertones; the same kind that have permeated children’s fables for centuries. Managing to bring a lively gait into the black forest, MacNair creates images that are playful and further emphasize their storybook innocence and dark irony.
Based out of Portland, Oregon, Jon has worked on a variety of projects, including album cover design and personal gallery work. His album designs crack enigmas left and right, questioning mortality and all that comes with it. Similarly, his gallery pieces are, to put it simply, extremely interesting. To go off on a slight tangent, there is an old Polish fairytale that has stayed with me for years, about an imp-like creature who, upon hearing children biting their nails, slips into their bedrooms wielding sewing scissors and proceeds to cut off their fingers, one by one, while laughing hysterically.
That sort of sinister mischief is central to MacNair’s imagery, and each scene is something to unpack; a stimulant for the imagination. Some of his characters frolic, merrymaking against a night sky, while others journey, plunder, and shape-shift, their costumed identities forever up to interpretation. Their often animalistic element is reminiscent to the mythology of hybrids and heroes, each with a prophecy to fulfill.
It Followed Him Out of the Woods, from Jon’s gallery work, is a charming narrative like no other. There is the essential ‘thing’, floating out of a forest and dangling a single bone over “him,” a traveler with a sack of them on his back. A benevolent force, showing sympathy to a vagabond, or something more chilling? The conventions of good and evil do not apply to MacNair’s world, a blessing towards its sweet absurdity.
Highjacking on the High Sea, is equally absorbing, evoking the legendary lure of the siren. In this case, our siren is a glass-eyed man, examining an ill-fated ship with the unapologetic curiosity of a little boy, thereby sharing a certain humanity with the sailor looking at him in horror. Jon’s work is ambiguous, there is no right or wrong. The purported villains are just as pure as any other character.
Last, but not least, is his piece titled When Night Comes, which is a scene of slumber, offering an intriguing break from convention, showing that sleep is possible even in the land of eternal eyes and living hills. Jon MacNair brings us truly contemporary work, cultivating not only a personal style but a different way of digesting a piece of narrative art. Like a shaman singing a nursery rhyme, he speaks to our innate, childlike sense of delight and fear of the unearthly.