Well, I am at the end of another week. Countless hours later, and I can only see a small difference. Reworked the fat layers, neck glands, started cleaning up the veins, arteries, and nerves, and a bunch of other miscellaneous things that I stumbled across at random when working at extreme magnification. One of these days it will be done!
One of the images I am working on the most currently is from the Digital Cadaver series, which is an extension of the Five Questions series (in some respects). The "underpainting", if you still call it that, is created with a digital pen tablet in photoshop. I will then be oil glazing the portrait over the digital cadaver. Pasted below is the original artist statement and a series of in-progress images. Having never worked with a wacom tablet before, I will just add there has been a major learning curve.
THE DIGITAL CADAVER This series focuses on combining digital anatomy models common in the fields of science and medicine with traditional fine art portraiture. In this group of hybrid works I will be combining a variety of pictorial methods with the goal of generating a more fully integrated conversation between these two disparate modes of representation. While I still consider the general direction and feel of the “Five Questions” series a success on many levels, it has become evident that the conversation generated through the pairing of these oppositional modes of representation is being minimized by the dominant “Fine Art” aesthetic inherent to the traditional methods used to create them. I now believe that in order for the work to capitalize on the conflict generated through the pairing of these distinct categories of body images the final work must transcend any one dominant aesthetic. I believe this will be accomplished by employing a range of working methods designed to maintain the formal characteristics traditionally held by each of these distinct categories of body images.
In order to maintain the disparate nature of the original source material I will be employing a variety of working methods designed to impart the aesthetic and formal qualities of each category of body image. In the anatomy based components of this project I will be utilizing software, such as Interactive Anatomy, and anatomy texts traditionally used my medical students and practitioners. This source material will provide me with a digitized view of the body. The resulting digital cadavers will provide the distance and detachment normally associated with images designed to nurture a dispassionate and technical understanding of the body. I believe this type of technical precision and implied detachment is essential in establishing the framework on which a body of likeness, imperfection, and familiarity can be built. These images will then be printed on a large format printer to maintain the scale appropriate for gallery viewing and in line with traditional fine art portraiture practices. In the portrait and figurative based components of this project I will be employing traditional mediums and methods to render the likenesses of the individual subjects. These portrait elements will be drawn and/or painted directly over the digitized cadaver in an attempt to reclaim it into the realm of the individual.
One of the series that will be recurring in this works-in-progress blog is the 'Five Questions' series. I have pasted one of the completed images below along with the artist statement outlining my goals and interests in this series.
FIVE QUESTIONS: BOOKEND PORTRAITS The human figure and portraiture have been central to my studies and explorations as a practicing artist for the past twelve years.In a desire to extend beyond historical modes of representation, I have found myself increasingly interested in depictions of the body that fall outside the canon of art history, namely in cartooning and medical illustration.Ultimately, I believe that by combining the visual language and style employed by various modes of representation, both inside and outside the accepted boundaries of fine art, I can locate and capitalize on unique areas of resistance essential to the production of new meaning.
My interest in adopting cartooning and medical illustration into my studio practice began with my desire to explore what I believed to be the varying degrees of comprehension associated with each image type. I was also interested in the degree of resistance each image type would have when placed in the context of the other, and finally, within the context of a traditional portrait or figurative work. These two sub-sets of body images began to represent the visual bookends of the individuals I was portraying in my work. As a result, each of the portraits was designed around a series of five questions that would suggest the visual history of the individuals I was portraying; what is your favorite color, what was your favorite childhood picture book, what was your favorite cartoon as a child, what do you think you will die from, and when do you think you will die? Images which represent the cartoon and picture book responses are painting in a color field (their favorite color) in the background of each portrait. Their cause of death directly determined the part of their anatomy I would “reveal” using the reference to medical illustration, and the initial (and often candid) response to “age of death” became the title for each work.
It is important to stress that I am not working to create images that suggest a simple comparative study between traditional portraiture, cartooning, and medical imaging (MRI, CT, and medical illustration); rather, I am attempting to pursue a fully assimilated conversation between disparate modes of representation. Medical imaging is marginal to mainstream interest in art and could easily be viewed as the shadow of fine art depictions of the body. It is built upon ideas of simplification and schematization and is more concerned with the density and arrangement of information rather than potential meaning (beyond explaining physical structure and diagnostic failings). Cartoons and/or cartooning are also considered cultural fodder and an applied genre of image making that falls outside the umbrella of fine art depictions of the body. It too is built upon ideas of simplification, but with the end goal being a body beyond limits. Cartoon figures are escapist and not bound by normal body conventions; they can fly, fall from great heights, and rebound with no pain. However, I believe that when the style and mannerisms of cartooning and medical imaging are removed from their traditional context, and are placed within the arena of an emotionally and psychologically charged portrait, the unsettling presence of the opened body presents complex questions of gender, pleasure, pain, interpretation, and reception that extend beyond the boundaries of contemporary figurative works. Simultaneously, the historically embedded notions of portraiture in which a timeless and psychologically succinct individual is reflected begins to recoil and collapse when confronted with the disturbing residue of death evoked by the cold and anonymous qualities of the underlying medical imaging. At the center of this series is the guiding concept, or belief, that the closer we move towards one end of the spectrum or the other (youth/naivete/cartoons ---aging/death/medical illustration), the less we were able to embrace or comprehend it’s opposite.
My reason for starting this blog is to both document, and share, my current activities in the studio. I have often thought of including a "works-in-progress" section on my website, but was weary of the 'how' and 'when' maintenance issues it posed. Employing a 'blog' seemed, in the end, to be the easiest way to do it. It will not be glamorous or contain philosophical musings, it will not involve 'deep thoughts' about my work or life, and it will not (hopefully) require significant time to maintain. Maybe I will eat these words as time moves on, and I will find myself tempted to explain, explore, and share my thoughts relative to the work and images I will be posting...but for now, I will hold tight to the notion that this is not a diary or a place to examine my own personal goals in work and life. Rather, I will be approaching this as a document of fact. This is what I am making, and this is where I am at now. As time passes it will also simultaneously reveal where I was at in the development of a specific body of work two weeks ago, a month ago, etc... and (hopefully) bring to light where all the 'time' went in making a particular image.
In addition, I will be including my initial and/or current artist statements for each body of work. Following the statement will be in-progress shots of the work that (in theory) will be posted at the end of each work week in my studio (which is Monday night). Occasionally these images will be accompanied by a brief statement about the progress made on a particular image, or notes regarding formal or technical issues I encountered during the week. This is where it all starts......I guess we will see where it goes.