Mary Henderson
Farmer's MarketBroad Street RunCommunity GardenFood TrucksPlaygroundBrunchBike TourBoot CampDishesSlingCooking ClassPopsiclesApplesPruningDiggingPlanting
Sunday Paintings (2012-2014)
Like my previous work, my latest series, “Sunday Paintings,” builds on source material pulled from social media and photo-sharing websites in order to examine class-specific cultural phenomena. These new, highly autobiographical paintings turn to the leisure activities of my fellow gentrifiers — educated, middle-class professionals who have created seemingly idyllic lives of contentment and privilege in large cities. The images are set within the modern urban utopia of parks, brunch spots and farmer’s markets that are the hallmarks of contemporary gentrification. Continuing to explore the contradictory qualities of modern leisure, the work depicts the pleasures of these environments, while also seeking out unguarded moments of reflection, preoccupation or disengagement.

The series is, in some respects, a reference to a long tradition of urban and domestic genre painting, heavily indebted to the work of painters like Edward Hopper and Gustave Caillebotte. One difference, of course, is that, in a culture transformed by camera phones and social media, the subjects of my paintings are experienced self-reporters. Indeed, part of what intrigues me about the people whose lives are explored in these paintings – other than the fact that I am one of them – is the element of curation that underlies their activities, which are so frequently documented with images (of meals cooked, of places seen, of races run) that convey idealized selves to the world.

What also draws me to these images, and what I hope to convey with my work, is the extent to which they are not simply displays of self-satisfaction. Within these images exist undercurrents of self-doubt, anomie and status anxiety, all of which rest uneasily alongside the satisfaction the images project. It is these contradictions that I try to explore in the work. Through the long and contemplative process of painting – compositing, refocusing, drawing from multiple sources – the images are slowed and shifted, transformed from a fleeting record of individual achievement into something more complicated and broadly resonant.