My current body of work, “Public Views,” examines the subject of crowds in open spaces, and the ways in which we present ourselves when we choose to take part in a communal experience. Featuring large collections of people drawn from a variety of settings – exhibitions, political rallies, festivals, sporting events, protests – the series addresses themes of group identity and the public/private self. The paintings depict their subjects 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 explore the purely visual beauty that I find in images of masses of people. I am interested in 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. The subjects of the work, shown in unguarded moments of vulnerability, reflection or preoccupation, exist in a state of suspension between individual and collective identity.
The subject matter is inspired by my own personal and family experience – as well as by broader social phenomena – and is based on pictures found online, photos that I have taken, and images shared with me by friends. The democratization of digital photography has made producing an image easy and nearly costless, creating a culture of visual documentation in which individual moments are quickly lost or forgotten. The deadpan casualness of snapshots, with their awkward details and generic or haphazard compositions, is part of what I find compelling about their visual language. Painting, meanwhile, is a completely different sort of medium – one that is based on memory and repetition, focus and intentionality. An image made by hand carries a special kind of weight at a time when digital picture-making is so abundant; by its very nature, it is slower and more deliberate, remaining an object for slow contemplation in a world saturated with images made for screens.
This tension – between the highly ephemeral nature of contemporary visual culture and the more permanent, archetypal aspirations of the figurative artistic tradition – has become a central concern in my practice. I am inspired by the visual urgency and freshness of snapshots, and by the distancing qualities of the iPhone lens. My paintings are not straight photorealist renderings, however: they build on the language of smartphone photography, but also incorporate layered surfaces that are founded on anatomical study, memory and direct observation. In this sense, my paintings are very much hybrids: I pare down, deconstruct and combine sources, creating scenes and figures that frequently include elements of self-portraiture and renderings of family and friends. In marrying the vocabulary of digital snapshot photography with the painstaking techniques of the figurative tradition, I hope to make paintings of the everyday that engage with contemporary culture while still maintaining an informed connection to their art-historical precedents.