Our latest Artist You Need To Know is Michael Bedard, an Emmy Award winning animator and creator/producer of animated TV shows. His works often blend humour and absurdity, with an edge that can illustrate how a comedic approach can speak to larger societal issues and assumptions.
Michael Bedard grew up in Windsor, Ontario (and like many who have lived in Windsor, the proximity of the U.S.A. informed his artistic growth) and moved to Los Angeles in the late 1960s where he became a popular poster artist (and co founder of OXO Art Publishing). He lived and prospered there for four decades, before returning to Canada, residing in Toronto before relocating to Welland, Ontario, several years ago. Bedard is perhaps best known for his Sitting Ducks work (1977), which is “a darkly comical image of three ducks sunning themselves poolside with sunglasses and iced tea. One duck, however, has noticed bullet holes in the wall behind him and is curiously studying them. The poster is representative of Bedard’s skill in using humor to highlight personal and social problems. Sitting Ducks was inspired by behaviors Bedard witnessed in ducks he was raising at his Topanga Canyon home…[but the] Sitting Ducks poster gave birth to several other projects, including a storybook, a video game, and a television series that aired in some fifty countries. Bedard, who has no formal art training, also won an Emmy Award for his animated film The Santa Claus Brothers.” (from here)
Bedard’s Sitting Ducks seem to be playful and amusing characters, but they inhabit a world that Bedard created that is both engaging and disturbing. “Bedard crafted a story about ducks who are hatched at the Colossal Duck Factory and destined to become dinner for the local alligator population. When one duck escapes and makes friends with an alligator, he takes on the difficult task of saving his fellow ducks. The fowl live in ignorance in Ducktown, where they are encouraged to eat so much that they cannot save themselves by flying away.” When these works were reviewed by Lynne Heffley for the Los Angeles Times, she “described the work as “a fowl Soylent Green” (referencing the infamously unsettling science fiction film). Publishers Weekly, in a critique of Bedard’s book as well as his many singular images of the ducks, described his works as “a comment on Big Brother, vegetarianism or star-crossed lovers” that were only enhanced by his “crisp, mechanical artwork.” (From here)
But this sense of ironical, perhaps even dark, humour, is not confined to just the Sitting Ducks works. Many of his other works (especially several that were on display at AIH Studios in Welland, in a show titled NOW HERE) offer a wryly comedic observation of the world, whether through figures of humans, or other animals, like his ducks. An article on Bedard, about a recent exhibition of his work in Welland, can be enjoyed here. There are also several videos on Youtube that explore the sometimes sly and acerbic humour in Bedard’s images that can be seen here.