Detail of “Ashley in Business Casual”

Detail of “Ashley in Business Casual”

Artist Statement

My fascination with fashion and cultural style cause me to focus on the advertisements that are ubiquitous in our daily lives. Store fronts, magazines, posters at bus stops are all images that linger in my mind and provoke two very different reactions. I’m appreciative of the fashion and creativity, but distressed about the underrepresentation of minorities in the media. In recent years the heterosexual, Caucasian, cisgender hegemony has slowly begun to be challenged and questioned, but this change is barely getting started. In real life I am constantly surrounded by a wonderful diversity in race, styles, and sexualities. However when I look at the screens, the posters, especially the portraits throughout history, this diversity isn’t there.

The first three pieces in my work primarily consist of fashion focused portraits with abstract backgrounds. Cleanly rendered figures are centrally placed and juxtaposed with an abstract space. The centrality of the pose creates a dignified and regal look. The people in these paintings each showcase a different outfit that I art-directed. During the painting process I further customize the clothing by tailoring the garments to fit them better or by changing the colors to create a more cohesive and visually interesting outfit.

My work was never intended to be overtly political. First and foremost, I want the viewer to see and appreciate the aesthetics of the painting: the technique, the outfits and accessories, and the juxtaposition of the realistic with the abstract. I wanted the subjects to be people we normally don’t get to see, such as people of color, people with androgynous style, etc. The fact that they’re being seen was enough for me.

As my work develops it’s come to be just portraits of people that capture my interest. I began to lose passion for my initial intent to allude to the fashion industry and noticed I began to feel obligated to force an agenda into my work instead of painting what I wanted. Therefore it’s being stripped down to traditional, close-up portraits. I want to simply highlight modern people who have a strong sense of individuality. I’m opting to use a monochromatic or limited color palette to maintain focus on the drama of the value range and the brush stroke quality in the paintings. In order to capture the the subjects’ authentic selves, I also no longer direct the clothing. For centuries we have seen portraits of nobility. In a similar manner I want to document people who are unafraid of self expression.