My fragmented self-portraits express themes of alienation and connection from a feminist perspective. I paint myself disjointed and reassembled, scrappily patched together from contrasting sources such as family snapshots, anatomy textbooks, art history, and doll parts. These awkward juxtapositions echo my conflicting experiences and expectations of being a woman today. As I get older, some of these expectations multiply and intensify while others peel away. Reflecting this reality, I paint different elements in distinct ways: some areas are stained with paint bleeding through from the back of the substrate, while others are painted with trompe l’eoil illusion to appear physically taped onto the surface. I’m interested in the resulting visual confusion: like characters from the surrealist game Exquisite Corpse, my figures are barely coherent. In our age of lightening-fast media content and a steady onslaught of images, where we can never be sure of the veracity of what we see, these paintings invite the viewer to slow down and look closely.
Whether the backgrounds consist of abstract stains or illusionistic prairie landscapes, the figures in my paintings relate awkwardly to their surroundings. They are too big, too unnatural, too “other” to fit in seamlessly. At the same time, the prairie landscapes — patchworks of arbitrary borders and irrigation circles — reflect their own history of not fitting in. Humans constantly modify the landscape to meet our own expectations. With both the figures and the landscapes, it can be hard to distinguish between natural and synthetic, real and illusion. What defines an invasive or a native species? Where is the border between natural and artificial? Who and what belongs in a particular place?
I paint in isolation, but with the goal of connection: I want viewers from all walks of life to recognize themselves in my work. My self-portraits look both inward and outward: they are intimate expressions of my personal experience, and also metaphors for society. From a personal standpoint, these figures reveal my own inner state: anxious, frightened, confused, and angry, due to multiple layers of stressors both personal (aging, professional setbacks, loss/grief) and global (the pandemic, climate crises, social/political upheaval). From a broader perspective, my self-portraits represent society itself: like my disjointed figures, our society is struggling to hold itself together right now amid extreme social and political polarization. As a community, we are conflicted about our relationship to the natural world. Even in the face of increasing climate catastrophes on our doorstep, we are unable to agree on a path forward. Yet the fact that we continue to function as a society at all is a testament to our communal resilience and hope. I want my work to embody this balance between crisis and resolution. Even when we feel like we might fall apart, as individuals and as a society, there is beauty, humour, and grace to be found where we least expect it.
July 4 - August 12, 2023
Sherwood Park, Edmonton, AB
Reception and Artist Talks July 14 at 6:30
501 Festival Ave.