Dark Money, 2016-17
These ink drawings on dollar bills are about the role of money in politics and its threat to our democracy. I have chosen the already loaded surface of the dollar bill as a potent, "sacred ground" that has been tarnished, abused, and manipulated, much like our democracy under siege from international corporate interests. Each dollar bill, with its different degrees of darkness, communicates the secretive, opaque nature of money and power in the rising political swamp of trump's America.
People are "ready-made" subject matter that avails you more riches than any imagination could offer. Doing portraits forces us to ask ourselves what exactly makes a person a person, and to study the subtleties that dissolve the unjustified generalities we impose on groups of people. Portraits unwittingly honor the supremacy of nuance and peculiarity. For several thousand years portraiture has brought the dead back to life and heightened the living. Across the millennia, we lock eyes with the regal gaze of a noblewoman from an Egyptian sarcophagus and wonder what her days were like. Ludwig Meidner’s foreboding self-portrait "My Night Visage" enables us to feel Europe’s psychic earthquake on the eve of The Great War. Rembrandt's face ages in slow motion as we are treated to his unflinching scrutiny of a human face's trajectory. As long as the work is not destroyed, it hands us our ticket to immortality and whispers across time, “Look at me, this is the way I was.” Ecce Homo—Behold Humanity!
Waiting to Go Home, 2007
I have been building fires for my father this winter. I have also been doing portraits of my dad as he sits and watches the fires. He is living and leaving this life with Alzheimer’s disease, a condition that slowly but surely erases parts of him before our very eyes. The painting sessions last about two hours a day. He sits with his feet up under a cozy blanket in his den of thirty-three years but does not recognize it as his house. Every once in a while he asks my mom, “When are we gonna go home?” Doing these laptop gouache portraits has allowed me to connect with my dad at a time when his connection to his family and the objects in his universe is slowly fading away. This is my way of keeping him alive as long as I possibly can. This little series of drawings and paintings turns the quiet, private moments of our winter, his winter, into a reverberating, public experience. My dad was fearless in the arms of the public he no longer engages. He was the life of the party without even having to don a lamp shade. He was gregarious and robust, and sometimes acted like a bear. Now he sits, still, silent, and solemn, in front of the fires watching, waiting to “go home.”
Check out my book, Waiting to Go Home:
My Old Man and the Sea, 2010-14
A Fool's Paradise, 2005-09