What’s With all the Creepy Art on True Detective?

by Michael Anthony Farley and Corinna Kirsch on June 22, 2015 · 5 comments From the Desk of AFC


Corinna: Colin Farrell walks into the victim’s house and finds that even the paintings are in disarray. There’s one abstraction (on his left), so you’re not expecting the victim to be a total sleazeball…not yet.
Michael: But even the abstraction looks like a reclining nude made grotesque! I read it as a mound of flesh on a fainting couch. That one on the right is just all-around awful.

Last night’s hotly anticipated debut of True Detective‘s second season on HBO was really confusing. Of course, fans of the show expect to have no idea what is going on with the series’ convoluted plots, but one scene in particular caught us off guard. Colin Farrell and company paid a visit to a supposed kidnapping victim’s house and found his collection of misogynistic contemporary art pretty disturbing. Ick. We did a little detective work of our own to find out more about the shudder-inducing curatorial preferences of (potential?) murder suspects. If you have any info on any of the artists featured here, let us know in the comments!


Michael: I was watching this with my family last night, and they literally all turned to me and asked me to interpret what the fuck is going on here. Turns out this piece is actually White Water, 1999, by Peter Sarkisian. It’s some kind of hologram/video loop of a tiny woman bathing. It’s less icky than having an actual, un-refrigerated bowl of milk laying around, but the thought of this hanging out on a coffee table still creeps me out.


Michael: At first, this slashed canvas looked like some hipstery album art/illustration.
Corinna: A nod to Romanticism, to show that the collector knows his art history?


Michael: But now it looks like it’s a variation on The Death of Ophelia where the subject is returning the viewer’s gaze. I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean, but it adds a classical allusion to the assortment of images implying the death or mutilation of female bodies.


Michael: Here’s a detail of the painting above the mantle, which gives us an idea of what Francis Bacon’s “Bed” paintings would look like if he strove for more naturalistic rendering.
Corinna: I am definitely predicting that there’s going to be many female victims (ick) in this season.


Corinna: Obligatory phallus statue.


Corinna: Scantily clad women!


Corinna: Uh, even more scantily clad women. I think we get the point—this guy is a perv.


Corinna: And yes, a Medieval/New Orleans-style skeleton statue to remind you, the viewer, that death lurks at every corner.


Ян Паценко June 23, 2015 at 4:29 am

The death statue is, to be precise, a Santa Muerte icon from Mexican cult tradition

agracier June 24, 2015 at 3:05 am

The pic with the caption ‘Corinna, scantily clad women’ shows a (reproduction of) a painting by Terry Rodgers.

Gregory P June 26, 2015 at 4:27 am

Hi, the piece of the woman floating in the bowl of milk is by artist Peter Sarkisian. I have written about him in the past – links lost to history or buried within non-web publications. Peter is a former participant in the Whitney Biennial of either 2000 or 2001. His video sculpture has been exhibited world-wide, however, and his objective is to “liberate television from the tyranny of the screen” and create short narrative 3D video sculptures that project novel narratives upon 3-D objects. I have forgotten the name of this piece, but it may be that the actress is in fact his wife. Sarkisian attended both CalArts and the American Film Institute and is the son of neo-realist painter Paul Sarkisian – the two men had a father-son retrospective at the Orange County Museum last year, I think. Let’s check: http://www.ocma.net/exhibition/sarkisian-sarkisian Yup. From what I understand, Sarkisian originally decline to have this piece appear in the show, but HBO was rather persistent. He then discovered that networks rarely credit fine artists with screen credit in their shows – and he made a deal with the studio to permit the inclusion but only if they would give him screen credit. Sarkisian (and his father also) have very strong opinions about the role of arts in society – to do, among other things, ask crucial questions about what we think, feel, and believe.

Geoff June 28, 2015 at 11:26 am

The painting captioned ,”Michael: Here’s a detail of the painting above the mantle, which gives us an idea of what Francis Bacon’s “Bed” paintings would look like if he strove for more naturalistic rendering” can be found here:

Enrique Salvador Toso July 2, 2015 at 10:51 pm

N7 is Milo Manara!

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