The portrait paintings in Pressure Points explore the tension between individuals as products of the culture around them and their agency in resisting it. Through my paintings I critique the societal construction of identity and the potential for subversion of ideological systems.
To make each portrait I begin by researching statistics relevant to a particular individual and dealing with gender, class, and race. From these, I find the statistical facts that are most revealing about the person and his or her larger cultural context. To translate the facts into a portrait, I create a grid on a panel or canvas on which I plot points using the numerical statistics as coordinates. I then place the figure within the plotted points, distorting the figure. In the process of painting I strive to capture the individual’s physical likeness and personality which give each individual agency and enable him or her to subvert cultural systems of normalization.
I am entering into conversation with theorists, such as Michel Foucault, who consider the ways that institutional structures mold, enforce, and regulate the construction of normality and subjectivity. Through systematic regulation, “normality” is constructed and enforced at the level of the social experience so as to maintain the values and standards ingrained in each individual.
A fully-integrated system of normalization is what I mean to question with my work. How is identity formed? How much influence do societal structures have over the individual? To what extent is the individual capable of resisting said structures and by what means? These are a few of the questions that I contemplate and pose through my paintings.