100 Works of Art: (Visual) Star Seeds, Shy Custis

For an explanation as to why I’m blogging about my own interpretation of various works of art rather than the accepted footnotes and the quality of the work, please see the first post in this series.

15. Star Seeds, Shy Custis (2008)

Continuing in the theme of blogging about art I own prints of, this picture represents not only a wider interest in the work of Shy Custis (which I have admired for six or seven years, watching the evolution of a personal style and the adoption of new techniques: it is almost a performance art in its own right to see an artist grow) but also the first time I had the stones to ask a complete stranger to make available some of their work as a print, being that desperate to have it on my wall.

Star Seeds, Shy Custis
Star Seeds by Shy Custis

As regular visitors to the blog will be aware, I have an affinity for St Sebastian and Sebatian-esque imagery. I run the Tumblr blog Fuck Yeah, St Sebastian, I have a tattoo of the saint on my thigh, and this blog series on art has already featured one painting of him. The love of arrow-pierced flesh extends into William Tell-related images, and I have thought since this picture was first put on the internet in late 2008 that it was a beautiful combination of the two: the arrow-pierced fruit, the pear in the model’s hands, and the arrows piercing the model’s back.

I am also a fan of gore in art (as well as, as previously mentioned, anatomical themes and memento mori), something at which Shy Custis has long excelled. The trail of thick, eye-catching red blood from the wounds in the sitter’s back to the arrow which pierces the fruit provides a visual and conceptual link between the two. Did the sitter crawl from the place at which the arrow struck the fruit from their back? Why are they sitting again, so serene and still, holding another piece of fruit even while missed shots pepper their back? And why is the successful shot, bloodied and bold, now plunged into the ground? Did the shooter stick it there, or the sitter?

There is a glorious contradiction inherent in the image: the serenity and stillness of the sitter accompanied by fruit (that most ubiquitous of still-life subjects), and the violence and action implied in the stuck arrows. They have not fallen but stand proud and at angles connotating speed and force: the trail of blood, the army of pale shadow arrows all speak of a flurry of violence and yet here in the aftermath the target sits upright, composed, and graceful, with a second fruit held obediently in their hands.

Is this image then about survival?

Lastly I would like to talk about the colour palette involved in this picture, as it is one of which I am extremely fond. It is highly complementary, and warm, and I feel that the concentrated spots of colour in addition to the direction of the arrows enhances the composition and draws the eye with admirable ease to the focal points of the picture. It is a very skilful and very beautiful piece of work and I am pleased to have it blue-takked to my wardrobe.


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