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.