My work is about social performance, and the ways in which we present ourselves when we choose to take part in a communal experience. Featuring collections of people drawn from a variety of settings—exhibitions, political rallies, festivals, sporting events, protests—the paintings and drawings addresses themes of collective identity, power and the public/private self. I explore how individuals and groups attempt to construct or live up to idealized personae or experiences, and in how those efforts either conform to or break from expectations. Shown in unguarded moments of vulnerability, reflection or preoccupation, the people depicted in my work exist in a state of suspension between individual and collective identity.
The most recent group of paintings in the series, “Serious Men,” is an installation of miniature portraits, based on isolated images of men at public gatherings, that examines performances of masculinity and stoicism. Playing on the typology format as a narrative device, the group invites the viewer to consider the minute cues that we rely on in interpreting the behaviors and motives of the men around us.
I construct my paintings from a broad range of source material (pictures found online, photos that I have taken, snapshots shared with me by friends and direct observation from models), working from images that are based on, or that resonate with, my personal experience. The subjects of my work are presented out of context, with minimal visual cues regarding location, both as a means to raise questions about the assumptions we make in interpreting group behaviors, and as a way to focus on specific configurations and interactions. I examine both the overlap and areas of divergence between differing displays of group commitment, and consider the competing theories of the crowd as a unified organism versus an aggregate of individuals. How do individual gestures, amplified through proximity and repetition, present as a collective, physical force, and what causes us to interpret these shared movements as either threatening or benign?
I try to approach all of my subjects with compassion and empathy, even when I am depicting people whose behaviors I find upsetting or confounding. I choose to paint the familiar, rather than the worst excesses of this political moment, both for ethical reasons — I do not wish to further sensationalize those subjects — and because I consider my main project to be an interrogation of everyday culture. My work frequently addresses themes of alienation, ambivalence and dysfunction; at the same time, it is important to me that it also consider the radical possibilities of pleasure and collective effervescence — to temper critique with hope.