Tim Presley by Ruth Swanson(photo:Ruth Swanson)

“I guess now we’re all living in those old paintings of people lying around on couches doing nothing with their boobs out.” – Dana Berger, actress and Tweeter

Yes, Dana. I’m here. When I’m not working, I’m doing nothing. If I didn’t have a roommate, these boobs would be OUT.

The pandemic has taken away so many things. Though artists have tried to get creative with online streaming platforms and bring performances into people’s homes, the substitution only reminds some of us about the vast distance between our wants and our gots. I want to feel the bass shaking the vertebrae in my back in and out of alignment, huddled closely to strangers and friends alike as we share an experience. I’ve got conference calls with performers muddling their way through home-based technology which, under the best of circumstances, is limited by the technology on my end.

I appreciate the efforts. The efforts are what are helping keep me sane right now, but it’s like having a hankering for crème brûlée and only having a slightly out-of-date Jell-O pudding cup available…and it’s not even the good one with the stripe of vanilla running through it.

That said, there are some nooks of our lives that the pandemic has reopened that aren’t completely terrible. For some privileged enough to be working from home, old-fashioned luxuries like having time to be with your family (so much time), having time (and the necessity) to cook for ourselves, and the mental space to be able to read and enjoy a book have started leaking back in to our lives. It’s almost as if the nonstop grind of capitalism wasn’t that great for us after all.

So, what are you going to take up between protesting for basic civil rights for all and learning to bake yet another artisan bread?

Tim Presley (The Nerve Agents, Model American) has a new book, Under the Banner of Concern, that might be just the ticket. An artist, musician, and poet from San Francisco, Presley is known most recently for his work as in musical outfits DRINKS, W-X, and performing as White Fence. Banner is a compilation of Presley’s poetry and artwork from exhibitions in Chicago and Los Angeles, as well as some previously unreleased work.

This book is a duality of reality and fantasy. Flat, crudely-brushed characters with dead eyes are reminiscent of pre-Renaissance Greek and Roman characters, their mask-like faces leaving little hint of personality or character. However, Presley manages to draw the viewer into their world, connecting us to them with both their sexualization and often crowded juxtaposition. The figures’ nudity mixed with the proximity to others suggests a vulnerability while the sometimes disjointed characters relates a the fragmented nature of human imperfection.

One thing this book does not let human beings do is forget that they are animals by nature, with the human form being simplified rather than glorified. Though, in looking at his work, I can’t help but fill in my own connections, my own storylines, and my humanity. Frankly, that seems perfectly relatable for these times in particular, but at what point in history has humanity not been such a complicated mess?

The entire book seems more like a statement on humanity than on any one human in particular in a way that is speaking some underlying truths without the self-righteous judgement that usually maligns these sorts of attempts.

Under the Banner of Concern is available starting August 25, 2020.