Artist’s Statement

Social Justice, Interdisciplinary, Inclusivity and Teaching

Since childhood, I have been enthralled with comics focused on social justice. The Indian comic “Birbal the Just” was my favorite because he was the champion of fairness. Gaining knowledge through popular culture and illustrated books that a child could read, I realized early, the power of multiple forms of art—storytelling and visual art and especially, the cumulative combination of both. This led me to my current practice and mission: bringing together artists with various styles and art forms to inspire each other and create something altogether new, growing community connections and a greater understanding of the power of art, in interdisciplinary fashion.

In my painting practice, I explore psychology through watercolor and acrylic paint, weaving realistic depiction and abstraction of figures and faces to create an overall image of honest emotion. Eschewing expected facial features, chests and limbs, realistic colors, and conventional positioning, my paintings describe who my subject is, over depicting their appearance. Through these painting techniques and responding to the chemistry of my pigments as much as my subjects, I create psychological studies rooted in my own battle with mental illness. Psychology, pop culture, science, science-fiction, and fantasy inform my work, guiding my strokes, balancing my mind while I balance my compositions.

These practices culminate in my teaching practice. Teaching is the discipline of paying it forward–in my case, through art–changing the world, through one person or group of persons at a time.

Rebirth: Transformation of the Elements

The transformative nature of art can create a metamorphosis in an artist the same way that fire immolates and renews wood. With a spark of inspiration, preconceived notions can be burned to ash and smoke in exchange for light and warmth. Bonds are broken and are rearranged while energy is released. Sometimes the change is so strong that it seems to come from the gut rather than the mind. In these cases, the artist is reborn.

When I tried to follow someone else’s rules, the resulting painting was not what I wanted at all. I tore it up, first in anger and then very decisively. Then I reassembled it, carefully taping it back together in layers by what felt like instinct. Pieces of the painting hushed a mouth, twisted a cheek and left gaping holes in the head and side of the face.

I was both relieved and energized while releasing the painting from its bonds of boundaries of shape, two dimensional depth and biological order. I was tearing it apart and reconstructing the image, wishing to renew the meaning of the painting by collaging the torn artwork onto itself. The shapes that were formed were organic, as in a sculpture, and were free from squared-off dimensions. The tearing was more visceral than the strokes of the paintbrush. Whereas within the conventionally dimensioned canvases only brush created compositions, now there are also torn edges and gaps that weave, break and layer through the piece, mixing with the brushstrokes creating a new abstraction and a wholly different composition. The tears are unconsciously purposeful, and the collaging is just as much so. Spaces in the head were removed, implying brain injury and mental illness, and the mouth obscured, suggesting a silencing act.

When I was done, there was “Broken” -a painting torn and collaged onto itself in which I took back control over any pressure I felt as an artist to sacrifice my integrity-a painting that expressed my physical injuries and challenges in a way that I couldn’t strongly enough in my previous style. I began healing and found a new form of expression that took me out of the limits of conventional dimensions. Finding this new process is my rebirth.

The torn and collaged portrait paintings in this show explore themes such as friendship, physical and emotional challenges, threat and elevation. Some pieces are collaged from a single image, others from multiple. There is a consistent technique, but no fixed definitions to my paintings. I want them to breathe. To keep my process coming from the gut, I allow the artwork to take many of its forms unconsciously. Varied viewer interpretations are part of the art.

The Personality of Watercolor 

My interest in watercolor portraiture lies in the study of personalities, emotions and the medium itself. I find the dynamic interactions between chemical elements, the physical properties of pigments, water and various papers as compelling as the relationships within in my subjects. The relationships I consider in my work are the subject’s feelings towards his or herself, the world, his or her immediate physical environment, I as the painter, and ultimately the unknown viewer.

People– though presently I am finding similar inspiration in plants and sea creatures– interest me in a way that I can express through the unconventional techniques of abstracted color, emotive structure, selective cropping and various amounts of representational depiction. The medium of watercolor, I have found, can lend itself to abstraction through possible errors, such as the natural and spontaneous pooling of water during the wet-on-to-wet technique. The medium is also steadfast. It dries rapidly (the pigment concentration being dependent on water content) and can be viewed as a stain—something that the painter can see as marring the work. Both pooling and staining might be considered mistakes, but I view them as avenues for unexpected invention in my paintings.

Through subjective intellectual interpretation and the unconventional techniques, I mainly venture to capture individual mental states, auras, nuances of personalities and a strict to vague representation of the physical form of the subject. I use the representational element in the piece, to whatever degree I choose, to give the viewer a way into the painting. It is with this familiarity that I hope to make the viewer comfortable enough to see the subjects in the paintings as real people whose feelings are laid bare. I hope to achieve this through my choices in color, light, skewing and focus. With elements of representation and verity in the titles of the paintings (Stephanie is Stephanie) I wish to portray honesty in a way that is palpable to the viewer. In gratitude to the subjects of my paintings, I try to maintain an impression of dignity and beauty in my work.

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