My art practice hinges between two thematic concepts: Being and Belonging. “Being” refers to how one lives within one’s own skin, whereas “Belonging” refers to how one lives within the spaces we inhabit. “Being” explores our performances in everyday life, including clothing as signifier, gesture as performance, and the gaze as a window into the psyche. “Belonging” asks the question “what is home?” and investigates how the concept of home develops from childhood onward.
“Being” takes the form of a series of figurative paintings called A Portrait of Darwin Grey. For this series I honed in on one model: Darwin— an androgynous, self proclaimed ‘queer-witch’, and disciple to Oscar Wilde. (Darwin Grey is a name he gave himself as a rebellious act against his latino-Catholic upbringing). As a painting subject he excites me because he is exemplar of my generation. Darwin is nonbinary, belonging to the Dandy subculture, and transgressive of typical western beauty standards. These standards have historically been set by straight white men and have been normalized in figurative painting in the history of art. In this way, my Darwin paintings are a rejection of the status-quo.
To experience the series of Darwin paintings, I feel that it is necessary that they are seen together. I am thinking of the paintings as a singular installation, and thus my role as an artist/curator. Particularly with my Darwin paintings I think of Andrew Wyeth’s Helga paintings or, more contemporarily, Collier Schorr’s photographs of Jens F. There is an obsession that the artists engage with, a desire and hunger for the perfect image of the perfect subject.
Moreover, “Belonging” manifests itself in a body of mixed media work which ranges from large works on paper, sculpture and installation. In my exhibition Heart is Where the Home is, I explore the idea of “home” and our desire to feel a sense of belonging and stability in our lives. Driven from an autobiographical lens, I am aiming to redefine self-portraiture in this work. I was raised with a nomadic childhood, moving frequently around Canada, Australia and finally moving to the US in 2001. In 2018 I became an American citizen after living in this country for so many years. I felt a shift in my identity, and for the first time I was able to fully consider myself a citizen versus a ‘legal alien’ with partial rights. This process made me question: is the United States now my home? What does “home” mean? Heart is Where the Home is is the work that came from the consideration of these questions.
Admittedly, the concept of home is complicated. For some “it is the human being’s first world…enclosed, protected, all warm in the bosom of the house” (Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, p.7) for others “A dysfunctional family [home] is one that is consistently unable to provide a safe nurturing environment. (bell hooks, Belonging, p. 18-19). The goal of my work is to create an immersive experience— to create an opportunity to be in something, rather than to simply look at something. I intend to toy with the idea of the decorative and the domestic, a rejection of Clement Greenburg’s hierarchy of art and craft, using patterning, “femmage”, and embroidery to explore these themes. For the 'home' work I am inspired by artists such as Louise Bourgeois and her Cells, or Do Ho Suh and his replication of homes he’s lived in, as well as Pattern and Decoration artists like Miriam Schapiro and Joyce Kozloff.
My newest project, A Projection of Home, is a photographic installation where images from my childhood are projected upon a three dimensional paper-sculpture which is a facsimile of a house I lived in in my youth. The house was the first house in the United States which I lived in with my family, and the last house my family all lived in together in a nuclear way. The images projected are of houses I had lived in while growing up. Each home was temporary, serving only as a backdrop to a fragmenting family. With time, these places became less real and less articulated in memory. Instead they became an archetype for an idea of what home could have been.
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