The series of oil paintings on linen, Synecdoche, explores the construction of identity through the practice of body modification, using my own body as the subject. In general, the art of self-expression comes through influences from outside sources: gender, sexuality, social and political alignments, personal interests, and even the environment in which one is raised. These paintings intend specifically to pose questions about how the choices we make and ways we present ourselves are influenced by who we are. The subject matter of my paintings, the sixteen-and-counting piercings on my own body, embodies the deliberate practice of altering my body since I was age fourteen.
People coming of age in 21st century America express the cultural exploration of bodily piercings often with just a single lobe piercing. Counterculture movements and subgroups such as the punk and gay rights movements of the late 20th century presented an alternate way to adorn one’s body with more permanent forms of jewelry, such as multiple facial piercings and tattoos, which have become a strong personal influence for myself.
Just as the painter Lucian Freud claimed, “I want the paint to work as flesh…to be of the people, not like them - I want it to work for me just as flesh does,” I, too, work towards that goal in each painting. I use oil paint delicately to layer thin washes of color that slowly build the luminosity and texture of skin. I work on linen, which in combination with the thin layers of paint, works to create a fine texture that mimics the softness of flesh. These paintings are presented as isolated body parts in a large foot-per-inch scale to introduce the pieces of myself that are pierced, and address how these modifications indicate a construction of identity over time.
The practice of piercing also functions as a reclamation, because it can liberate the body in instances of oppression or bodily trauma. In a white patriarchal conservative Christian culture that tells me others have more rights to my body than I do, I reclaim my body as truly mine. Piercing reclaims the body in a culture that tells us our bodies belong to our fathers, our employers, our spouses or partners, and tells us we must keep our bodies “clean” for their sake. I embrace that my body is mine and have painted and furnished it to decorate the walls of my life.