“Portraits on the Arrival” is an incomplete series of photographic portraits in which I intercede to portray a moment of expanded consciousness. I imagine the men portrayed here on the verge of a new way of thinking and, to commemorate the moment, have their picture taken. The swirl of color conveys the ecstatic joy that comes with new ideas and fresh thinking. This is not typically a moment we commemorate in our culture. Perhaps it should be.
At the end of 2017, I emerged from a dark, two-year period where I largely resisted having a place in the world. I was waiting to die and then when I didn’t, I realized I had to figure out what I wanted from this new reality. I took interest in the divine nature of humanity, how, through small action and intimate gesture, we manifest change in the world around us. How do we liberate our neighbor? How do we free the potential of those around us? If I were to remain in the world, how did I move through it so the world was more how I wanted it to be? I took inspiration from an interview Erykah Badu gave to Vulture Magazine in which she says, “I’m not a political chick at all. I’m macrocosmic in lieu of microcosmic. I see a whole big picture. I see freedom for the slaves and the slave masters. For everybody. We’re just emerging into a new state of being altogether, and the anger now is about people scared of that change.” I read Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light (1967), a book about a god living among an alternate humanity. Zelazny explains divinity, “Being a god is being able to recognize within one’s self these things that are important, and then to strike the single note that brings them into alignment with everything else that exists. Then, beyond morals or logic or esthetics, one is wind or fire, the seat, the mountains, rain, the sun or the stars, the flight of an arrow, the end of a day, the clasp of love. One rules through one’s ruling passions. Those who look upon gods then say, without even knowing their names, ‘He is Fire. She is Dance. He is Destructions. She is Love.’ So to reply to your statement, they do not call themselves gods. Everyone else does, through, everyone who beholds them.” And I reconnected with Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz’s 1714 work Monadology. The 18th century philosopher saw himself as a mind in a world of minds where thoughts were the only things that were real. He believed space and time were an illusion. This led him to write, “Souls in general are living mirrors or images of the universe of created things, but that minds are also images of the deity or author of nature himself, capable of knowing the system of the universe, and to some extent of imitating it through architectonic ensamples, each mind being like a small divinity in its own sphere.”
I believe in the infinity of things, that space, time, resources, and love are limitless, or at least potentially so. In our world, we are constantly being told we have less, that there isn’t enough time in the day, not enough housing for everyone, not enough money to provide health care and education to our neighbors, and those who try to convince us of this often want us to fight with each other about it. Humanity has achieved many god-like things. We turn night into day. We fly. We leave the planet. We communicate across great distances instantly. I see no reason why we can’t achieve other god-like things that are a mystery to us only because we have not yet realized how to bring it into the world. If we believe anything and everything is possible, then the question is simply how do we work together to make it so. This is my idea of what a divine humanity would be like. What is yours?
I start these works by painting gestures on paper. I then photograph the paintings and remove any surface that remains in the image. These fragments are then collaged with a found photograph where the subject is removed from the portrait and the collage of paint gestures are inserted behind the sitter. In doing this, I am altering the space of the found photograph and recasting the image’s function. These men are now icons of new ideas and fresh thinking.
Portraits on Arrival
at Spruce Peak Arts Center in Stowe
September 13, 2018-January 7, 2019
Reception: Saturday, October 6, 5:30PM
Curator: Kelly Holt