When I was a kid I carried around a toy army bag. It was filled with all kinds of things. Most vivid are the magazine clippings I collected. They were pictures of childhood obsessions: cartoon and movie characters mostly. Sometimes I would use them as a guide for drawings, but I mostly remember my devotion to them. I remember the almost compulsive way in which I would handle them, see them. I would grab them out ham-fistedly, spread them out on a table, and then stack them together like a deck of cards. Then I would shuffle through, looking at the representations of my favorite characters. Just looking, taking in the printed pictures: the compulsion of the visual was already present.
My painting practice borrows from visual corporal history, and my personal history. What connects these two histories are pictures: the compulsion to consume pictures and the ways we mold them, and are defined by them. My current paintings reference male homoerotic visual culture and contemporary dating app imagery. The popular hook up app, Grindr, opens to a cascading grid of profile pictures falling from the top edge of the user’s screen. The images represent the other users near you based on their distance, as you change your location, the users also change. Visibility plays a dramatic role in the app. The user generated images often subvert or reject the visibility of the user. Commonly the user will upload an image of themselves from the neck down, or use an unrelated image in place of a traditional profile picture. Frequent examples are a picture of a flat surface or a landscape. Chiefly, what is exhibited, is a series of images dealing with the representation of the body through a theatrical gamut of visibility. It’s a space where queer identities are defined by absences and visual obstructions to sight—where there’s a compulsion to bear witness, to see and know.
My work plays off the concept of “seeing as a will to knowledge”. I locate visual moments in images where abstraction or the theatricality of the body give visual form to social realities, such as the “headless man” motif. I create meaning in my work by restructuring these images. I collect vast amounts. Often, I crop the image focusing the frame on a detail. This solicits desire in the viewer; the painting posits the part, rather than the whole. Identity in the work is complicated using fields of color. Often subject matter is painted over using varying paint finishes. I also work with translucency by layering paint in between image transfers which is useful in controlling the amount of light the painting seems to “project”—affecting the visibility of the subject matter. My handling of, and loyalty to a painting practice is a reckoning with visibility: the history of which bodies are represented and how; and our contemporary moment of visual viral reproduction, consumption and excess. In an age of visual distraction, I make work that asks its viewer to stop and bear witness to how the body endures the burden of representation.