In these three paintings I started off thinking about women in ordinary places, what that implies about them, and what stories they could tell.
The connecting title, The Ground Beneath Her Feet, is a reference to the Salman Rushdie novel of the same name that I was quite taken with a couple years back. At the heart of this novel full of magical realism and tectonic metaphors is a love triangle of two men competing for the love with this beautifully dangerous and incredibly selfish woman. While in truth I didn’t like the woman that much and sympathized with one of the spurned lovers, there’s this poetic pull around the whole idea of a woman being able to drive men crazy to the point of worshipping the very ground she has touched. I like the power it implies and I guess I’m playing with that in this triptych.
Superhero was a happy accident because originally I was going to have a model on the top of that building and call it “Photo shoot.” However, as I was painting it became clear that it was a great location for that typical superhero stance, watching over the city from the rooftops above. And what better way to straighten out gender norms than adding another female superhero to the mix? They are few and far between, and often way too erotic. I purposefully didn’t call this “Super heroine” because when you Google image search that, you get a bunch of highly sexualized images that are, quite frankly, offensive. For the record, I am a comic book and graphic novel fan, the darker the better (Batman, Sandman, The Watchmen), but in general the female characters in this genre could use a little more personality (a shout out to Fables, which does this with an excellent cast of women in leadership and kickass roles).
In Hitchhiker, the setting of a road in the middle of nowhere is something I’ve always been attracted to. I love road trips – some of my best thinking happens in the car – but where I grew up in the mountains you couldn’t see very far ahead of you. This view of the road vanishing into the distance is quintessential of the vastness, possibility and promise of the American continent. However, the romanticized view of the hitchhiker from the 50s and 60s has been replaced with this fear of the serial killer (either hitching the ride, or, more often, behind the wheel). A lone female hitchhiker just sounds like the title to a horror movie. So I’m playing with this tension between romanticism and fear, painting the dress of a freely spinning dancer in blood red underlined by the ominous skid tracks on the road. Doesn’t that make you curious? I’m going to let your imagination do the rest.
In Hipster, I was specifically thinking about how we see people (both men and women) all the time and make assumptions about them based on what they’re wearing. I’m as guilty of this as the next person – what can I say? I like people watching. And while I was painting this urban scene, it looked like the outside of a hip coffee shop to me and I started thinking about hipsters. I think it’s kind of funny listening to people (including myself) trying to explain what a hipster is, because often that description starts with a list of clothes and accessories, whether it’s skinny jeans, big frame glasses, belts or knitted sweaters. So we label the hipsters (denying the possibility that in the same moment someone else might be labeling us hipsters too), but we don’t really know what’s going on inside their heads, what they may or may not be doing, nor what their lives are like. You can learn a lot by interacting with someone, which may indeed confirm your assumptions; but more often than not you remember to recognize the humanity in each individual.
In my Flawless series I strive to reshape gender norms by refusing to apologize for femininity, recognizing that pretty isn't weak.