I paint realist portraits using photographs as references. The paintings attempt to explore the intersection, as I see it, between photography and the realist tradition in portraiture. There has been a potent interchange between photography and painting in contemporary portraiture: Chuck Close’s paintings reference a mugshot-like photo format, and explore a kind of emulsiony photo surface, as does Richter, who also plays with photography’s distancing qualities. I find myself affected by photography as well, but mostly in an emotion-soaked way: photographs freeze “in-between” emotional moments (enigmatic facial expressions) and function as talismans of mortality, both in their depiction of what really was, and in their ability to capture a fleeting moment in time. In my mind, this circles around back to the history of portrait painting. I experience the fleeting time-sense of Velasquez or Hals as analogous to that of a photograph. As well, the literalness of the photograph lends itself to a Realist approach; that is, an art that seeks to show, even if harshly, what is truly there, and to have that "truthiness" (of course, all painting is pure fiction) provide the emotional springboard for the art. I believe that portraiture of this ilk remains fully relevant and contemporary (Alice Neel and Barkley Hendricks come to mind, both of whom painted people as unflinchingly themselves, with all of their particularities of physiognomy, body language and dress). I think that my work owes a debt to this centuries-old strain of realist portraiture, but allowing photographic references to remain overt in the paintings also serves to create a necessary sense of distance in the work. For me, that tension between emotional charge and mediated distance is an important one.
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