Picture Postcards from a Possible Psychonaut: The Work of Scott Listfield
Dozens of classic pulp sci-fi images fill the covers of the now-defunct If magazine. They appear as postcards sent from another time and place—space travelers floating over cliffs while malevolent humanoids bend light behind them; planets surrounded by sleek, blinking spaceships too colossal to comprehend; worlds beset by weird weather. With the artwork left ambiguously unconnected to any particular title listed on the cover, the viewer is left to imagine the context of the image, the artist’s intent and the slice of the tale presented. For one who readily suspends disbelief when intrigued by narrative art, images like these lead to a place not anchored by impossibility, a place of near-psychedelic experience enhanced by the notion that what the viewer is looking at might actually be happening somewhere.
Such is the nature of Scott Listfield’s paintings.
Of his work, Listfield says, “I’m strongly influenced by science fiction from long ago, when the future was always portrayed as ‘The far-off year 1997, where you live on the moon, have a robot best friend, and computers have shrunk to the size of a small family van.’ The idea of the future, from the past, which actually takes place in what is now the past, but feels like the future—it kind of starts to mess with your mind a little bit. Which, obviously, I like.”
Appropriate to the epic sprawl of the worlds Listfield creates, his audience is dropped into each of his works in medias res. A lone astronaut whose face is never seen and whose origins and travels are never portrayed gazes over landscapes populated by empty highways, arcade and movie monsters and enigmatic, other-dimensional structures. The subject walks through scenes like someone walking through a museum, alternately gazing, evaluating, halting, and turning away to move elsewhere.
Like the displays in a museum, there is a semi-solid yet altogether-eerie familiarity to the fixed-yet-timeless places Listfield depicts. A giant tentacle is wrapped around Marina City, and we see it from almost the same angle as it appears on Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. A Space Invader looms, and we are once again below it, wondering how quickly we can twitch the joystick to get out of its path. Twin suns hang over the icon of the Randy’s Donuts sign in Inglewood, and we simply accept it as fact.
After Listfield’s work, the viewer remains as he intended: dis-anchored by impossibility.
Scott Listfield is influenced by the original Star Wars trilogy, Thundarr the Barbarian, Arthur C. Clarke, NASA, the iPhone, H.G. Wells, Transformer cartoons from the 80s, Philip K. Dick and Futurama, among other things and artists.
He maintains a website which should definitely be explored.
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