Southwestern

Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives

King Creativity at Southwestern

The Fine Line: Painting as Objects or Objects as Paintings?

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Rebecca Gordon
Advisor: Victoria Star Varner

Through my project “The Fine Line: Painting as Objects or Objects as Paintings?,” I question whether the traditional identity of a painting as a two-dimensional work on a rectangular canvas would change when applied to three-dimensional objects. If so, how does it change and why? In order to explore this, I painted on common, household objects (two chairs, a small table, and a lamp) in the same way that I would on canvas. This project is an ontological investigation into the act of painting. 

By painting directly on the surface of an object, I visually explore whether the perception of a painting changes when associated with what people interact with daily. I have found that by taking away these objects’ usable function and making them viewable from a single, front view, as a painting would typically be hung, they are transformed into art pieces and are no longer furniture. Although one may be tempted to use these utilitarian items for their original purpose, museum protocol and cultural taboos deem it inappropriate to directly interact with artwork; therefore, my act of painting the objects simultaneously makes them non-functional. 

I challenge the assumed functionality of these objects by altering the identity of a utilitarian item to pieces of art, specifically painting rather than colorful sculptures or decorative utilitarian objects. I discovered that the identity of these painted objects is equivalent to painting on a shaped, non-rectangular canvas. My pieces are not the same as colorful sculptures, because the viewer is intended to have a fixed viewpoint, and my spatial depictions were developed with two-dimensional illusionistic space in mind, not the three-dimensionality of sculptures.   

By interpreting abstraction onto a tangible and readily available household object, I hope to alter the viewer’s experience and to subvert traditional expectations by making paintings on furniture that can be perceived as a work of art rather than decoration. The discoveries in this ontological investigation will be presented in my body of work for my senior art exhibition.