Fred Stonehouse, Kilroy-Coq-à-l'Âne, 1999. Acrylic on panel. Collection of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Gift of Howard and Judith Tullman.
Kilroy-Coq-à-l'Âne features a character who appears to be a hybrid of Mr. Potato Head and a cartoon bird. This strange and humorous protagonist is flanked by two praying angels dressed in typical choirboy garb, their heads floating above their kneeling bodies. At the same time, several idioms in French float across the canvas: coq à l'âne (cock-and-bull story), n'est-ce pas (isn't it so?), and à nuit, tous les chats sont gris (nighttime erases the differences between things). The entire canvas is enveloped by a found frame, a technique Stonehouse often uses to demonstrate the folk and American roots of his compositions.
Fred Stonehouse is a Wisconsin painter who draws inspiration from diverse sources, including Latin American and Mexican folk art, Northern Renaissance painting, and twentieth-century Surrealism. Raised in a Roman Catholic home, Stonehouse regularly incorporates religious imagery into his art, often combining these images with his own altered interpretations of figures from popular culture. Although encompassing a variety of cultural, historical, and religious symbols, his paintings present a world that is uniquely his own. Stonehouse states, “My paintings are like being in my brain.”