French digital artist Cal Redback has splendid skills in digital photography, and he’s fond of manipulating human bodies using Photoshop to play with the viewer’s psyche and emotions. The young man has recently received significant Internet praise for the evocative nature of his series called “Treebeards”.
In this project, the artist blends human beings with nature by incorporating plants, foliage and branches into the human heads. He creates a completely new species by deforming individuals and splicing them with the natural world. It may be a disturbingly ironic and literal visualization of the “thinking green” concept.
Taken more seriously, these images can be a reminder and a warning that after Chernobyl, Fukushima, BP’s oil spill, and other technological disasters that cause air, water and soil pollution, the environment may also strike back, provoking changes to our genes – mutations – that are the most common cause of cancer. Quite an upsetting, yet a compelling metaphor that our self-indulgent society should take into consideration.
As every open-ended, thought-provoking project can possess, Cal’s series may have a polar opposite meaning. The artist may not intend to incite the associations with the concept of human death, but on the contrary, the audience may find his artworks to be metaphorical illustrations of a peaceful co-existence between homo sapiens and wildlife species, a metamorphosis that unites two categories of life.
Cal’s work presents questions and challenges us. While being complex and uncomfortable, his project makes us re-think the way we treat the environment. Ignorance may be bliss, but one can no longer ignore the damage that humankind has heaped on nature, especially when the effects may be more than detrimental for human existence itself.