How does it feel to carry the weight of the last couple of years in contemporary America? In my studio, I asked friends, family and strangers to sit down and show how sorry they are for the current state of affairs. The expressions and gestures are theirs, reflecting a gamut from shock to sadness to resignation, and everything in between.
The SORRY Project is inspired by David Hockney's "Portrait of Jean-Pierre Gonçalves de Lima (JP)," which was inspired in turn by Van Gogh's "Sorrowing Old Man."
The SORRY Project has revealed a wealth of feeling, just under the surface. I hope it creates a community of empathy among viewers as well.
Taken from the media, these large images resemble history paintings: capturing a dramatic moment in time where individuals are caught in a public crosscurrent. There are protests and vigils, accidents and scenes of chaos, moments of intimacy and perseverance.
Woven as Jacquard tapestries, up to 60" x 80", the images echo their digital origin in the rough texture.
In the images, we can observe victims and perpetrators, innocents and onlookers. A common thread of pathos emerges, making it hard to look away—even though we might want to.
What are the faces of modern American politics?
Come election year, the fans fill hockey rinks and high school gyms, convention halls and state fair arenas. They follow one candidate or another, true believers with a dose of fanaticism. They pump the air, they chant "USA USA!," they grab selfies with their leader, they wave flags and stomp the floor and bellow through bullhorns.
Based on news photos of the crowds at campaign events, these images use models to recreate the fans' behavior, isolating it under bright studio lights. Here, one or two at a time, we can examine their gestures and expressions as a social psychologist might.
We can survey their colorful getups, look them in the eye for a trace of craziness, and feel their mixture of exhilaration and earnestness. Their enthusiasm is contagious, and a little bit frightening.
These photographs of museum-goers focus on the act of looking—and being looked at.
In an era of blockbuster exhibitions and celebrity artists, museum-going can become less an intimate experience than spectator sport. And people watching, as at a mall or a zoo, is part of the ritual. How strangers navigate their private/public boundaries in slow-motion choreography, often forming family-like groupings, is a form of urban anthropology. That the art and appreciator sometimes echo each other adds to the voyeuristic appeal.
More than just being cool, these images suggest, it's important to look cool.
A response to America’s current climate of fear, “Unknown Suspects” is inspired by depictions of unknown terrorists in the media: those black silhouettes of head shots.
Culled from the web, the photo-based images in “Unknown Suspects” are translated into graphite on board. These anonymous, shadowy heads act as a kind of Rorschach test for our collective unconscious: what threats do we perceive in their vague ethnicity? We take notice of the tilt of the head, the shape of the ears, the curls or sweep of the hair.
Presented life size, 20” x 16” in black frames, the images become a mirror that allows us to examine our other selves.
Graphite on board, 20” x 16”, framed in black, 2015.
These candid iPhone photos grab people on the street, caught up in their own mini-dramas.
Lost in thought, hurrying along, or talking on their phones, they reveal expressions that range from tense to dreamy. They are alone in the middle of a crowded city.
Sunlight slices across a corner or crosswalk, putting a spotlight on them in the middle of the pavement. Or else they shoulder their way down a busy sidewalk. Once in a while the subject catches the camera's eye, drawing you into the scene.
And then the figures vanish, a momentary vision that flashes past the corner of your eye.
In these photographs of details of paintings in museums and books, the focus is on a swatch of cloth, a bare shoulder, a shadowy wall.
These elements, lifted from their original context, might be having a dialog with each other. What are they saying? Maybe something about an indistinct light, a crackled texture. Maybe they are asking the viewer to help fill in the gaps.
From these samples, a kind of timeless, anonymous portrait or interior is assembled. And like the details in art books, that blow up a small area for closer inspection, these fragments force attention to what may be overlooked.
These images explore the wounds and amputations inflicted on classic Roman and Greek statuary in museums. Some of the damage is obvious, such as a missing limb or blinded eye. Some of it mars the surface of a torso or spine. And some of it apears mechanical, such as the hole of a missing post.
The statues appear to be survivors of war and personal strife. They become empathetic figures, speaking across time of the trials of being human and of being a civilian or warrior caught up in armed conflict.
Full of feeling, mute, the statues balance suffering with a certain dignity.
Culled from stock photos, these images show a cross-section of an idealized America. A place where doctors and firefighters and soldiers all do their jobs with unwavering devotion.
But look closer and you notice a certain isolation and weariness too. As if everyone needs a moment to "take stock" of who they are, what they're doing and why.
This is an America still trapped in the false dreams of the Reagan era, but showing signs of wear and tear in the Balkanized political present. Many of the subjects gaze directly back at us, as if from a mirror. As if to say: I am he as you are he as you are me (Walt Whitman via John Lennon).