Winter 2007–2008

Artist Project / Character Study

Inside stories

Michael Paulus

Despite their wildly distorted human forms, the familiar cartoon characters pictured below are so commonplace in our contemporary culture that we have come to think of them in some sense as real, living beings. Given this, I thought it would be interesting to examine them as science does any living thing—stripping them down to their bare essentials; dissecting them, as it were, in an attempt to discover their true makeup. As a way to understand better these “individuals” on their most basic level, I rendered their skeletal systems as they would necessarily have to look if someone had, for instance, a skull comprising sixty percent of his or her body mass. Charles Schulz’s classic ensemble—and Charlie Brown, specifically, with his conspicuously disproportionate head—provided the original incentive to investigate the origins of these entities.

From top to bottom: Charlie, Lucy, Barney, Fred. All work from the series Character Study: 22 Skeletal Systems of Current and Past Cartoon Characters, 2004.

Michael Paulus is a multimedia artist living in Portland, Oregon. Working primarily with film, video, and sculpture, he focuses on the intersection of science and art, often by creating objects that are inherently misguided or dysfunctional. For more information, see

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