I’m working within an oeuvre of American Realism that can be traced back at least as far as to Copley’s “Watson and the Shark.” I draw on inspiration from American artists of many disciplines, including: Walker Evans, Hopper, Faulkner, Charles Addams, Paul Cadmus, Joyce Carol Oates, George Tooker, Fairfield Porter, and the first 60 years of American cinema.
My creative process begins with the collecting of discarded snapshots from flea markets and the internet. My interest in the casual snapshot is its link to a history or memory that I cannot access. The inaccessible nature of these memories—or stories—has led me to a preoccupation with inventing new narratives for the objects and figures depicted in the photographs. By doing so, I’m ostensibly endeavoring to “save” these anonymous people and objects from obscurity while simultaneously mining the stories that inhabit my dream life. My subconscious narratives often reflect a dark, mysterious, and intrinsically Gothic view of America; suburbs leach danger, authority figures evince moral turpitude, nature threatens, and the surface of all things belies the more messy, complicated realities of being human. The works are saved from being unrelentingly gloomy by a consistently wry sense of humor.
The drawings are narrative, figurative, realism-based, and they borrow heavily from the aesthetic of snapshots from the 1940–60s. I incorporate into the works some of what I consider to be the “felicitous mistakes” associated with the medium of amateur photography—skewed horizon lines, improper focus, halation, odd croppings—and harness the visual symbolism of those details to suggest emotional undercurrent and meaning.
After having culled a selection from hundreds of snapshots, I identify elements in each photo that are intriguing—a figure, a bit of architecture, a family pet—and I remove them from their original context. I then combine them with elements from other photographs until I’ve created a wholly new mise en scène with a reinvented reality. Symbolism, Surrealism, and Absurdism are all put to use to create works that are, as the art dealer Robert Goff says, “drawings with intensely enigmatic and mysterious subject matter. The viewer encounters a vision of America that is at once sympathetic, humorous, and apocalyptic.”
The medium is charcoal on rag paper. A kind of alchemy happens as the charcoal is rubbed with the fingertips into the tooth of the paper. The resulting texture serves to create an overall atmosphere that is dream-like—a quality that’s unique to the medium and is in direct service to the subject matter.