Throughout my series, I Believe in Ghosts, I reference vanitas — 17th century Dutch still lifes — to draw on the tradition of sharing a moral lesson. Vanitas paintings present an array of objects as symbols to remind us of the transience and vanity of human existence and earthly possessions and pleasures. My modern interpretation of vanitas puts the female figure directly in the composition, exploring transience of innocence, value, and agency relating to female identity. I use symbolism and allusion to convey the tension between objectifying the female body and recognizing the rich interiority of the female subject.
Objects have histories, yet are unable to speak them — what does it really mean to treat women as objects?
Today I wanted to share my painting Bald Eagle which I made to be representative of women taking stronger and more prominent roles in politics -- Notice the feather quills on her blouse -- She's rewriting history! I'm with Kamala Harris and wish her and Joe Biden every success.
I'm pleased to share that my 2016 painting, America: She Was Asking For It, was included in an important new book, Not Normal: Art in the Age of Trump.
I am one of 147 artists responding to socio-political issues in the age of Trump. While the content is serious, flipping through the pages is cathartic. This powerful collection of 350+ artworks was curated by Karen M. Gutfreund, Independent Curator.
Copies of "Not Normal" are available to purchase here.
America: She Was Asking For It was born in a nightmare I had on the night of the 2016 presidential election. It depicts a revealing portrait of not only America’s elected Head of State but also his wife and Vice President and Mrs. Pence.
A variety of symbols evoke both an immediate visceral reaction, such as the confederate flag, as well as an ongoing discovery of depravity represented as small painted details, such as the pins, that reveal contradictions and hypocrisy.
I utilized the bright coloring effects of gouache to capture the flashy tone of media imagery and intentionally made the work small to emphasize the insufficient attention and transitory coverage given to these issues by the media.
Mary Magdalene as Melancholy (pictured above and below on left) is the personification of melancholia and believed to be a self portrait of the artist, Artemisia Gentileschi. This work is a copy Gentileschi made of her previous painting, Penitent Magdalene, (pictured below on right) which resides at the Seville Cathedral in Spain.
Interestingly, x-rays revealed alterations in Penitent Magdalene in both the face and the widening of the cloth covering the subject's shoulder, probably because the original appearance was considered too risqué for the church. Looking at these two works side by side, it's easy to see the concealment of the bosom and the lack of vibrancy in the later work -- but what I find most striking are the differing gazes.
The Penitent Magdalene castes a pensive downward gaze, suggestive of guilt and shame, and an unawareness that she is being looked upon, whereas Mary Magdalene as Melancholy holds a melancholic, yet direct gaze (detail of gaze pictured below) making us the viewers very much aware that she knows we are looking upon her.
Gentileschi is a tremendous Italian Baroque painter, whose incredible work has been largely unsung owing to sexism in the art world. The injustice doesn't begin there. As a teenager she was raped by her painting mentor. He went unpunished, while she was tortured with thumbscrews during the trial to see if she was being truthful. And her "reputation" was "ruined".
When viewing Gentileschi's work we are fortunate to have a window into a 17th century female perspective - Amazing! In Mary Magdalene as Melancholy, one can't help seeing the hurt and anger and fire behind her gaze. These subtle changes between the two works speak volumes about the oppression of women and importance of women telling their own stories.
Having said all this, I really want to express the joy I felt running into Artemisia Gentilesch, at the Soumaya Museum in Mexico City! Gentileschi's work seems to be gaining more recognition as of the 2010's. She's a bad-ass feminist, and an artist well worth knowing, if you don't already.
If you visited my studio in Autumn 2018, you may recall my larger-than-life-sized self portrait, I Believe in Ghosts. It's a recent addition to my new body of work, Portraits of Self and Society, in which I juxtapose vulnerability with challenging social constructs. This self-portrait examines how the conflicted messages women receive about ourselves, our bodies, and our roles impacts our lives and shapes our experiences, expectations, and choices.
I'm eager to share that I recently received word from the National Portrait Gallery in London that I Believe in Ghosts, was selected for the final round of the 2019 BP Portrait Award!
Those who know say this is the most prestigious portrait painting competition in the world, representing the very best in contemporary portrait painting. Roughly 200 portraits are selected from thousands of submissions from all around the world for the final round of judging. These 200 portraits are then whittled down to about 50 portraits that will go on to exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery in June.
Elation from the good news delivered via email in the middle of the night morphed into adrenaline as I realized I had a little over two weeks to coordinate having a frame made, having a shipping crate made compliant with UK customs regulations, correctly filling out paperwork that will make or break my journey through UK customs, and actually shipping my portrait from Healdsburg to London, clearing customs and arriving at the venue before March 1. Easy peasy, right?
Frankly a lot of hard work and support by many local treasures went into readying I Believe in Ghosts for departure to London. My piece is currently in transit with FedEx Air Freight and I’ll be holding my breath until it lands in the UK and clears customs! Regardless of the final decision, It's a huge honor to have my work considered for the second year in a row, and very I'm grateful to be included.
To be continued...
Thank you to Glenn and Charly at Hammerfriar for an absolutely perfect frame made under absurd conditions! Thank you to Chris at John Annesley for a beautifully constructed, lightweight shipping crate. Thank you Skylark Images for the exceptional documentation of my work. Thank you Sally for your endless enthusiasm and support, and help wrapping “IBIG.” and lastly, thank you Byron for around the clock all inclusive love and support.
I Believe in Ghosts didn't continue on to exhibit in the 2019 BP Portrait Award show. However, I am really very happy to have had my work selected and considered two consecutive years for the final round of judging by the National Portrait Gallery in London ... not too shabby! Well done to all and a big congratulations to this years exhibitors.
I'm eager to present my newly painted animal portraits. Although this series has always focused on individuality, in previous years the works have thematically centered around locations, such as Sonoma County or the Arctic. This year is a little different because I focused on female identity as I developed three portraits of North American animals - Bald Eagle, Mountain Lion, and Black Bear.
When human women are depicted as strong it is almost always along with sex appeal - the "strong and sexy” cliche - as if female strength and capability are synonymous with sex appeal. The bald eagle, mountain lion, and black bear are all seen as strong animals, at the top of the food chain. When we encounter one we don’t automatically make assumptions about the animal based on its gender. We appreciate their strength, beauty, power and ferocity.
We marvel at the amazingness of both female and male animals, never questioning their abilities, motives, or intelligence based on gender. So why do we tolerate and accept the gender limitations we impose upon ourselves as humans? By anthropomorphizing these female animals, and giving each a unique identity, I seek to question why our society often struggles to present strength, intelligence and beauty without sexual undertones.
Male dominance in western art, and in particular portraiture, has been a critical element in denying women ownership over our own identity. It also has caused some of the most significant crimes and injustices against women to be ignored, dismissed, or worse glossed over as something entirely different. Sober Jockey confronts this head-on by singling out and reinterpreting Henri Fuseli's, The Nightmare from a female perspective. In doing so it directly confronts issues of violence towards women and the shock, trauma, stress, depression and haunting that so often comes with it. A scene which for so long has been presented and interpreted as a “Nightmare” is now shown to be a reality for the protagonist, as it is of course for so many millions of women.
Sober Jockey will be exhibiting, as part of Art in an Age of Anxiety, at the Arts Guild of Sonoma in Sonoma, California between August 30th through October 1st, 2018. Opening reception Saturday, September 1st, 2018. See Details Here.
Art in an Age of Anxiety
August 30 - October 1, 2018
*Opening reception Saturday, September 1st 5:00pm-7:30pm
Arts Guild of Sonoma
40 E Napa Street
Sonoma, CA 95476
Open Sun, Mon, Wed, Thurs 11am-5pm
Open Fri & Sat 10am-6pm
I'm honored to be included in Persistence, an exhibition at the Museum of Northern California Art celebrating and recognizing women artists. "Persistence" has become a byword for women standing up and I'm passionate about promoting the work of female artists past, present, and future. This was my kind of exhibition.
I created this space to showcase my past work, chronicle my current projects, and share my inspiration.