To paraphrase Joan Osborne, “What if gods were some of us?” These paintings are circuitously inspired by my deep affection for academic painting. I love the clichéd idealism, formulaic standards, use of mythology as justification for painting the nude, and basically everything the Realists rebelled against.
God-heads offers a contemporized take on familiar and not-so-familiar ancient mythological figures using a kind of “non-idealized idealism;” call it pop-academia. While some contrivances of academic painting are here, my figures are more forthrightly human than would be acceptable under that system, and color is often amped up to Technicolor levels. They’re what a Realist might paint if gods and goddesses really existed and looked like your neighbor. The head and shoulders format suggests a scenario in which the famed deities dropped by the studio and sat for their portraits.
I often reference historical painting themes and styles in order to throw into relief western tropes in figurative art. Certain conventions reoccur with such regularity throughout history that they can be seen as cultural memes that cut across religious, mythical, and secular themes
The origin and process of god-heads
When Jax Deluca posed for my Myths and Lies series (still in progress), she brought with her a variety of costumes and accessories including a fake fur hat with rabbit-ears. She also had some carrots, I think just to eat. I use photography to get source material for paintings, usually taking hundreds of pictures in a sitting. Wearing the hat, Jax bit a carrot and looked at me with one of her characteristic wide-eyed expressions that strike like lightening bolts out of the blue. I snapped a picture.
The image didn’t work for Myths and Lies, but it was too compelling to put aside, so I made a small painting from it. I loved the result (included here). I Googled the words “rabbit” and “goddess,” to see what I would come up with. Kaltes is a shape shifter who often takes the form of a hare. I named the painting after this goddess, and the kernel of an idea was planted.
When I was invited to exhibit at Studio Hart I proposed to do a series of paintings similar to Kaltes, all of which feature friends from the art community. Subjects were asked to bring to my studio something interesting to hold near—or wear on—their heads. Selected photographs were manipulated in Photoshop. Then I made paintings from this source material.
Finally, I Googled key words to find a god or goddess that fits the results. This forced association approach prompted a variety of intriguing and often surprising associations.