My portrait paintings of celebrities use an ironic juxtaposition of contemporary celebrities within the familiar formal constraints of various historical painting idioms. That is to say that I depict contemporary hip hop stars within the framework of a early Christian Icon painting, or teen pop idols in the manner of a renaissance portrait, or crib a composition from a Weimar era German expressionist painting when painting the celebrity art dealer du jour. My intentions in making these paintings are convoluted, however I think that it is clear that the paintings are kitsch, and by being so they address issues of class and taste. The images are intended to be accessible and easily understandable using the visual acumen that is common to all participants in our highly evolved and sophisticated, information rich, media culture. They are populist images and are meant to undermine hegemonic notions of high-low taste distinctions.
The subjects that I choose are intended to further facilitate this communication. Celebrities represent a cultural common denominator in that most people who participate in the globalized American mono-culture understand who these people are and what they symbolize. Most of us understand the difference in significance between Lil’Wayne and Kim Kardashian. The difference between Lil’ Wayne and Michael Jackson is more nuanced, but every American high-school student understands it. Through the lexicon of celebrity we can address important issues such race, class, death and sex in a sophisticated way, while not excluding people from the conversation.
Along with the overt sociopolitical agenda, my work also attempts to describe the context that is made in. I believe that in order to make a work of art that is important for posterity, the work must describe some aspect it’s own time and place with truth and accuracy. It is with this in mind that I tend to pick subject matter that will seem dated very quickly. One of the anxieties that I have about my work is a frustration with the competitive disadvantage that the individual has when going up against a culture of corporation and commodification. My choice to address a very disposable subject matter (celebrities & current events) in a very slow fashion (oil painting) highlights this frustration and speaks to the condition of the painter in contemporary society. Much like Sisyphus i make paintings only to have them be obsoleted by the 24 hour news cycle and a culture hungry for novelty before I even finish. But this problem is by design and I a comforted every time i visit the museum and marvel at paintings of great and important people who we have forgotten, but the importance of the paintings remain, only increasing over time.