Steve Derrickson

Sightings and Projections

Selected paintings by Steve Derrickson

UFO sightings and the attendant images are evocative for those of us living on terra firma. Waffling between the scientific and the crackpot, these images tend to function as mirrors of our collective hopes and fears.

When I was a boy, UFO’s were tied up in the anxieties, at times verging on hysteria, of the Cold War. Some have viewed UFO’s as heavenly signs of divine salvation, as signals to the righteous. Some see them as reflecting a fear of the ‘other’, the undocumented alien to end all aliens. Carl Jung saw the UFO phenomena as projections of the collective unconscious, expressing a need for wholeness, saucers as mandalas. UFO images evoke the unknowable, they appear real but they are beyond our touch, representational yet metaphysical.

Sensational as the subject would seem, photos of UFO’s usually have the dull blandness of the conventional snapshot, utterly banal. This deadpan charm is often textured by the cheesy static of bad reproduction; dust, hairs, blurs, back-page ghosts, off-register printing, the grain of extreme blow-up. I find this ideal terrain for the tactile subjectivity of painting. Each painting is assigned a number which corresponds to the date the source photo was allegedly taken. This functions as its title and as an identification number, as though it is an object in a taxonomy or scholarly collection. This number also serves to anchor these interpretations of celestial voyeurism to a specific historical moment, at the crossroads where seeing and believing meet.