My current series of photo-based work originates from photographs I have taken on city streets in New York, Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco, and at Grand Central Terminal. I am expanding and shifting the parameters of traditional painting & photography by combining them with digital technology, narrative text, and resin surface on wood panels. By blending these mediums, it enables me to push beyond their conventional boundaries to create a new hybrid. These are one-of-a-kind works, not photo editions.
I have always lived in large cities, so my work is informed by the multitude of issues we encounter living in a metropolitan area: loneliness and alienation in our fast-paced society, the concept of personal identity and the loss of it, the passage of time, the individual as part of the crowd, and how we can stand out from the ‘sea of sameness’, since we each have our own unique voices and stories to tell.
Around 2000 I began writing text over some of the figures in my photos in an attempt to personalize or individualize them, and make them stand out from the crowd. These brief stories about the people are from my imagination, based solely on their appearance or stance. By using text in my work, it adds another layer, and gives the viewer a chance to “experience” the artwork, and become part of the process by reading it. There is a light humor to my work but I ask the spectator to go further and deeper. I want them to dissolve the narrative and address the experience.
I superimpose these “biographies” on top of the individuals, almost as if they are wearing their stories like an article of clothing. I try to give a little bit of history about the person; where they are from, their age, what they do, their hopes, their dreams, and often something embarrassing or personal that they would rather not have revealed.
In my work the documentary nature of the B&W photograph merges with the painterly qualities of oil, establishing a dialogue between the two. I mount my black & white images on top of 2 5/8” deep wood panels, and hand paint them with numerous layers of oil glazes to build up the color, combining the old master technique of glazing with contemporary photo/digital technology. The final surface has a UV resin coating.
The surface is left intentionally glossy so that in various light, the viewer can see his/her own reflection. This concept can also be seen in other artist’s work such as Francis Bacon. The following quote by Hugh M. Davies from a Bacon catalogue in 1999 explains it well. “He reveled in the fortuitous reflection of the viewer superimposed in the painting, as each of us becomes complicit with the painter, as both a protagonist and voyeur”.
I have also started to incorporate ‘ghost-like apparitions’ into some of my work. These figures represent the passage of time – all the people that have been in the exact same place but at a different moment – maybe only five minutes before, or ten years in the future. We are all connected in this time continuum, even if we aren’t aware of it. My work embraces the contemporary non-linear view of time with its randomness, spontaneity, and chance occurrences. The figures are often caught in movement, conveying our individual journeys, where we are all “collectively alone”.
Surveillance now occurs as a routine part of our daily lives. In this series I am using both downloaded photos from public Internet Webcams in different parts of the world, and images from airport x-ray screening machines as the sources for my photo-based oil paintings and suitcase installation.
I see surveillance simply as a fact of our current times, and in viewing these public Webcams on the Internet, I realized that surveillance cameras have taken on another unexpected purpose. They have become the historians of our contemporary era. They capture us in our everyday lives, going about our business, usually unaware that we are being observed. Never before in history have we been so documented. I have found it fascinating to utilize these images within a fine art context, regardless of what their political implications might be.
Occasionally a person does see the Webcam mounted on a building, and waves or holds up a sign in a vain effort to connect with somebody out in the world. This brings up underlying issues of loneliness and alienation in our society, where we are "collectively alone". Often our only interaction is through the Internet, rather than face to face. At any time of the day or night, we can watch and capture images of people anywhere in the world. We can be "somewhere" without leaving the comfort of our own living room. This creates an undeniable feeling of voyeurism, which in its own way helps to establish a kind of anonymous connection with the rest of humanity.
The other part of this series involves images that I photographed off of airport screening machines that show the contents of suitcases, much like seeing an x-ray of our bodies. The usual paraphernalia, shoes, umbrellas, and eyeglasses can be seen, but I decided to "enhance" these images with the addition of more ominous items, such as guns, bombs, firecrackers, scissors, and liquid filled bottles. This was done partly tongue-in-cheek, but also because these items directly relate to our present day fears of what we imagine might be lurking in someone's bags. In the past we never gave much thought to our carry-on luggage, but things have changed whether we want to admit it or not.
This series of photo-based works are from photographs I have been taking of people on rides at amusement parks, carnivals and county fairs. By blurring the distinctions between photography, digital manipulation, and oil painting, a synthesis is created, and the work becomes multi-layered in both meaning and appearance.
The images are printed in black & white with numerous layers of oil glazes hand painted on for color. I am combining the old master technique of oil glazing with contemporary photo/digital technology.
The rides in these works represent flying, and may at first glance appear to be a nostalgic view of simpler times, perhaps a childhood past, that we often think of when we refer to "the good old days". But, more lies beneath the surface. In some of the pieces, the figures' feet often do not touch the ground but are "up in the air", which relates to the state of mind of feeling ungrounded or unconnected in the world.
The movement of the rides, some a circular swirl of blurred figures, some up and down, while others, a more tranquil journey through space, are like our own personal journeys in life. Sometimes turbulent or exciting, while other times peaceful and calm, but always in a state of motion.