Michael Waugh

Offences Against One's Self


Ink on mylar

30" x 60"

The image of a single floating tree is a strange kind of symbol. It evokes religion and myth without having any specific reference. Perhaps for this reason, it is a popular both as a motif in New Age art and as corporate logo. Simultaneously rootless and free, it alludes more to our modern way of living than to any traditional doctrine. The floating tree represented in this drawing undermines these notions. Instead of reaching inspirationally upwards, this floating tree careens sideways, gnarled, with no distinct top or bottom.

The tree is composed of the words of Jeremy Bentham, specifically, the entire essay Offences Against One’s Self (written c. 1785), which argued for the liberalization of laws prohibiting homosexuality on the grounds that such laws wasted public resources and were based on neither logic nor science.

The floating tree here wavers between two poles, between the aspirational and the forbidden.

Courtesy of the artist and Schroeder Romero, New York.

Michael Waugh

Offences Against One's Self (detail)

Offences Against One's Self (detail)

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