I use narrative in painting to create stories that depict and explore the raw, messy, and seemingly unimportant moments in life that really say so much and when painted are full of drama:
In a living room lit only by a black and white television set sits a woman ironing clothes as she’s watching the Sunday night movie where lovers embrace passionately below the Arc de Triomphe. In the foreground, in the warm light of the dining room, stands a man on the telephone with a big smile. In the middle ground, in the shadows, stands a boy, directly behind the man, dressed in a 1950’s space costume holding a space gun.
I want to look at … to study …to understand the truth about who we are, what motivates us, what we react to and why; chemically, environmentally, and socially… to really stare it all in the eye and not be afraid of sharing or finding fraternity in those moments when we are at our most vulnerable; when the facade we have constructed as a result of experience – of conditioning, to ostensibly protect ourselves from each other (but mostly from ourselves) – slips for just. a brief. moment, and an authentic, true connection can be made.
There is great beauty in truth, regardless of whether it is pleasant or not; for each time it is recognized, humanity is affirmed.
The stories in my paintings do not provide resolutions or answers; only questions that offer the viewer an authentic moment to share and/or identify.
Through a street art aesthetic I strive to capture a shared social conscience and offer truths of increasingly complex and significant political, economic and social issues of our time; where light shines, shadows fall. Candor and social justice drive my creative process resulting in stark yet elegant artwork that encourages an audience to critically view their world, focus on what is habitually overlooked, face what may be uncomfortable truths, and act to improve their lives and those of others. At every opportunity I reference values, satirically or directly – integrity, humility, compassion, selflessness, trustworthiness, responsibility, and dependability – on large canvases of size and weight consistent with the gravity of the issues to which they speak. Truths are transcribed through acrylic spray paint – a street artist’s instrument – as the “street” is most often and most severely deprived of social justice. Images of the feminine from centuries-old artwork, often of moralist movements, are routinely appropriated and embedded into compositions to suggest causality between the current imbalance of the feminine and masculine in our social constructs and institutions and many of the social ills being faced today. Consistent with my rebellious undertone, as this artwork was generally acquired by the era’s social elite I consider appropriation of its imagery today in the service of socially-conscious work to be particularly fitting.
My work focuses on the study of spatial relationships. With paintings, drawings, prints, and glass objects I explore the relationship between interior and exterior. Using imagery of the body, interior rooms, and exterior environments, I discuss the narratives that can occur when what happens within us and what happens outside of us collide. The spaces through which we pass and live become reflections of us and our experiences and we fill these places with ourselves until they hold a piece of that time. I am interested in how our environment affects how we feel about ourselves and how we feel informs how we see our environment. With my body prints, interior rooms, and imagery of natural environments, I am exploring our experiences and reactions to what happens around us, how we internalize it, and how it is impacted by us.
I am a Cuban- American artist working and exhibiting in the DC metro area. My work samples from various socio-cultures found in America to present an eclectic collections of dynamic and bold works.
The superhero and the princess are examples of how cultures, past and present, portray gender to communicate stories about identity and morality. Using archetypes like these I’ve created narratives about struggle, power, and heroism.
My work is in many private and public collections. Most recently my work has been added to the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities Art Bank collection and the Arts and Cultural Heritage Division of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Prince George’s County, Maryland collection.
I am currently a visual designer for the Smithsonian Institution and earned a BFA in graphic design and illustration from the University of Miami.
Based in Washington DC, Michelle Goldchain is a journalist with a background in photography and graphic design. Through her photographic works, she takes a critical look at the District, from its underground punk music scene to its marijuana culture to its dilapidated buildings to its homelessness problem. While using color, contrast, and movement in a variety of ways in her works, her dedication to capturing her home, Washington, DC, remains consistent.
As artists, we tend to shy away from the ugly. However, I find that the unpleasantness of disturbing subject matter is rich with potential. We, as humans, often approach ugliness with hesitancy. Our fearful nature prevents us from finding the rich creative fodder that lies in unsightly masses such as boils, wounds, or cracked pavement. The world that we are constructing around ourselves is disposable, so my work serves as a rumination on our environment with the intent of finding meaning in its imagery. Through my artwork, I explore macabre subjects as a means to fuel my fascination with dark and off-putting subject matter as well as make it more approachable.
On a different note, “Frederick” is an exploration in character design. Frederick was inspired by the concept of vanity. His sculpture was an emotional exploration of a deformed character and an unstable self-image due to his appearance. When I created Frederick, I wanted his misery to be apparent in his expression. He began in thumbnails and I only had one idea in mind: boils. I knew this character would be absolutely covered in them, so from that point on, my focus was on how his appearance affects his life. He is very large and an alcoholic, driven to drink by his appearance which inhibits many aspects of his life. When I began to sculpt him, my focus shifted from his backstory to the form. Specifically, how can I use texture to enhance this creature? Contrast was very helpful as I decided to choose textures that contrasted with the boils. His skin turned into a very leathery, reptilian pattern, which translated marvelously onto the rolls of fat under his chin. There is a very intimate aspect to hand-carving every detail of a creature’s appearance and with a skin type as intricate as Frederick’s, his sculpt involved a lot of patience and love. By the end of his creation, I found myself so invested in his story that he became one of my favorite pieces. The concept of vanity heavily fueled his character development and I doubt he would have been as successful as a sculpture without this aspect of his story. Furthermore, I want Frederick to inspire introspection in his audience as in our modern culture, we hold vanity very dearly. Consider Frederick an invitation to disregard the movement to assimilate towards a singular, exclusive idea of beauty that is held high above our heads by the media and endorsed by celebrities. Rather, let us pursue beauty as we observe it in our surroundings: as imperfections and wrinkles and boils. Let us cling to these imperfections as they serve as evidence that we are alive.
As a visual artist there is nothing more gut wrenching to me than being asked to write an Artistic Statement. I have written many and read many more, and confess to having understood very few of them, my own sometimes included.
My immediate reaction to being asked for my statement is this: “If I could articulate the meaning of a particular piece, or my work as a whole, then I would be a writer.” I quickly move to: “Who am I to tell the viewer what my work should mean to them?” Also, if I’m too articulate about a piece then the work is suffering from a lack of understanding to myself
That said, I realize that as human beings we communicate, for the most part, with words. The written word somehow confers a ton of truth. I will try to write something about my work that I know to be true: When I’ve finished a painting, it’s only my painting. When I show the painting to someone else, it becomes my art.
As so often in life, more is to be discovered beyond what is transpiring immediately in front of us. The act of paying attention to this serves the genesis of this currently expanding line of deconstructed collage paintings. The streets, in particular of Santiago, Chile, are laden with posters screaming intentions via graphics, imagery, and words. Yet it isn’t the designed communication that pulls me in, but the allure of the endless decaying layers of juxtaposed color and texture producing in concert an almost silent chance of passive composition. Off the street, further investigation of these happenings takes place on wood panel along with paints, drawing, and the occasional found object, reinterpreting the original found paper moments via gestural innovation. My intention is to bring to light the electrical beauty of which falls silent to most passersby, cyphering the positive qualities out of the banal of everyday to act catalyst towards increasing observation of this world we live in.
Melanie Gritzka del Villar
I’m a Filipina-German artist with a background in figurative painting. More recently I’ve been drawn to the use of found objects and mixed media processes.
Having lived in Germany, Spain, England, Thailand and the US, my creative journey has been shaped by an ongoing search for harmony out of disparate cultural and environmental elements. This translates into a sensibility towards stranded objects as holders of fleeting meaning and of latent possibilities for alternative narratives.
My art is rooted in a deep concern with the current state of living in an increasingly fragmented, fragile world – seized by global environmental challenges such as climate change – and a firm belief in the possibility of reconstruction through human collaboration and creativity.
A sense of necessity pushes me to produce works that spark a recognition of our interconnectedness and our interdependence with our environments, and motivate audiences towards positive action to salvage what is ‘lost’ and restore what is ‘broken’. That is why I work with found and discarded objects. I strongly feel that new visual metaphors are needed that allow us to mourn the loss of community and destruction of our natural world, while at the same time sowing the seeds for new constructive narratives of restoration.
My creations are palimpsests traced from a dialogue with the found materials and the environments of which they are a product. By uplifting fragments from the flotsam and jetsam of our throwaway lifestyles, I hope to inspire audiences to challenge given hierarchies of value.
I create alternate worlds that awake the viewer to the strange, absurd and awe-inspiring in our world. My paintings and drawings often explore the body – its internal complexity, beauty and disorder – to entice and disorient.
Through this work, I engage with my conservative upbringing in Greensboro, NC and the cultural archetypes that have shaped my perception of relationships, gender roles, and sexuality. Narratives that have influenced me become the jumping-off point to create my own worlds. I combine elements from such sources as Biblical stories, medical illustrations, science fiction and fantasy to weave an enigmatic narrative that holds a multiplicity of meanings.
Surrealism influenced my artistic practice from early on, particularly the hybridic forms of artists like Max Ernst and Louise Bourgeois. Hieronymus Bosch and Hans Bellmer influenced my style, as have contemporary “lowbrow” artists like Mark Ryden, Ray Caesar and Camille Rose Garcia.
I live and work in Washington, DC and am currently pursuing my MFA at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. I studied studio art and economics at UVA before moving to DC. I am active in the local art community and work as a digital creative director. My interest in biological imagery is influenced by my feminist perspective, but started from a young age. As the daughter of a surgeon, I was made all too aware of the human body. My dad thought it was a great idea to record over old VHS tapes of surgeries with family scenes. The result was a disturbing end to Easter or Christmas movies that abruptly cut to an open spleen.
Isaac’s fine art projects focus on our capacity for positive change in a period of accelerating change that is saturated by electronic media and consumer culture. He asks how we can achieve a clearer vision of ourselves, and whether we can achieve genuine human interaction, in this environment. He also questions how we can make a lasting and positive impact at a moment when confidence in our ability to achieve progress is understandably weak. He creates projects that capture the physical and emotional displacement of rapid travel and that find transcendence in the mundane. Many projects rely heavily on the Internet as a source and on composite imagery as a technique of provoking dialogue about our troubled relationship with the overload of imagery we encounter daily.
His documentary practice is carried out in collaboration with his wife, Gabriela Bulisova, and it includes a strong focus on socially conscious issues including mass incarceration, environmental issues, and village life in Europe. Isaac and Bulisova have created short documentaries and still photographs that explore several topics related to mass incarceration, including the reentry of former inmates to local communities, sentencing reform, and the impact of incarceration on families and children. In Ukraine, the two documented the experience of young women serving time at the nation’s only juvenile penal colony. They have also produced work on the health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, including the impact of climate change and pollution on the fragile ecosystem and the local residents who rely on it.
By revealing the difficulties we face in an extremely complex social and political environment, while nevertheless reveling in an ongoing sense of possibility, Isaac’s work reflects on some of the key challenges we face in the contemporary moment.
I bring a background of visual language and environmental activism to my work. I explore improbable pairings of ephemeral images with the underpinnings of printmaking that evoke the natural world.
This overlay of humanity echoes the presence and influence of mankind on our planet.
Elements of printmaking, collage, photography, drawing and painting have always been key components of the mixed media monotypes that I make. My recent body of work has allowed me to incorporate traditional printmaking techniques with polyester lithography plates in a challenging new environment of aesthetic choice and possibility.
The visual consequences of human activity colliding with the natural world are central to my work. A shadow cast, a humble coffee cup, or a printed word can have a certain elegance that evokes a particular moment in time. My work involves collecting, combining, and interacting with these images in ways that celebrate our concurrent existence.
Wayson R. Jones
Making art work, for me, is a way of creating psychic order and structure, by creating images that are imbued with sense of presence and energetic movement. As my practice has developed, this has been achieved through a (largely subconscious) reductionist approach to composition and color. I achieve a sense of freedom by limiting pictorial elements primarily to an explicit or suggested horizon line and floating mass/shape in the upper part of the picture plane. This allows the work to move between imagined landscapes and abstracted portraiture, as the horizon line and central mass/shape take on the roles of shoulders and head, respectively.
Whether working from invention or observation, I am interested in identity, perception and communication. I pair hard edges with ambiguous passages to represent how the world exceeds the language, symbols, and interpretations we apply to it. While imperfect, this relational construction of meaning is all we have. Making art is my attempt to span the space between myself and others, between past and present, between meaninglessness and something to hold onto. My recent work draws on Jewish mysticism, queer identity, and the history of landscape painting.
Art making is like breathing, eating, or sleeping. It is an organic process that must be indulged in order for me to be fully alive. I have made art continually since I was a kid and life would be bleak and unfulfilling without the challenge of making art. It is not so much working from a concept, but more a concept of no-concept – working, and then through the process finding what it is that I am seeking to reveal. It is quite challenging and exciting.
My work has been a continuing exploration of materials, mostly paint and its application. My works are minimal in form and express the intrinsic qualities of the materials used and how these works exist in an environment. All surfaces are made mostly with oil paint and are very rich.
My work derives from a process based on responses to materiality and mark making. Each piece begins with a gesture that triggers subsequent moves. Hard-lined geometry and improvisational gestures are applied in layers, modifying and obscuring earlier efforts. The element of chance disrupts habitual boundaries and pushes the work unanticipated trajectories.
I find that the work accrues structure and meaning through the accumulation of time and full measures of attention. Usually, a piece would sit for days before the next move can be intuited. I look for an emotive resonance upon re-encountering a piece after some time has lapsed. This process would continue until the work appears to hover between perfection and imperfection, chance and control, density and weightlessness.
More often than not, the most satisfying pieces are those that end up in entirely unexpected places. For me, the act of painting slows down time…like a quiet inner center amidst the frenetic rush of daily life.
I am interested in the relationship between drawing, time, and thought. My drawings are composed of marks which, referencing English artist Avis Newman, “are signs of thought.” Randomness and process determine outcomes. Time and the grid are systems of measurement. These influences are all synthesized in an expanded notion of drawing.
Avis Newman writes, “I have always understood drawing to be about…the operations of thought.” As the hand makes lines over time, what happens inside the mind? Can thoughts ebb and flow as marks do? How is time experienced as I draw? What becomes of this absurd activity? These are a few of the questions that motivate Times Liines wherein marks suggest thought.
The notion of expanded drawing influences my work. Traditionally, a drawing is a picture of a subject rendered on a two dimensional surface. In Time Lines, marks translate experiences. Lines suggest rather than portray. As 2D reliefs, these drawings also shift between dimensions.
Recent works on paper are inspired by everyday observations of nature . It provides repose and encourages me to observe and listen to the subtleties
of my surroundings. I am particularly captivated by the sounds and happenings in the margins of an environment.
The 2D relief series, Time Lines (Anchors), stem out of watching spiders cast webs and structures found in diamonds. In these works, 3D constructions are made of thread and pins. They rest on random points on a grid. Like the spinning of a web, they are unraveled and re-positioned as I work. Shadow lines are observed and traced. This repetitive activity alludes to process art and allows for “being” while working rather than doing.
Works are timed from beginning to end. This sets a schedule that does away with distractions. Thus, it allows for greater cerebral participation in the drawing process. Works are created over a few minutes to several months. Times are recorded in titles.
I make art because I need to. I make art to create something new. I make art to communicate and connect. It would be nice if art made me rich and famous, but, even if it doesn’t, I will continue to make art.
Baltimore native, Michael “Mike” McCoy, captures more than just a moment in his photographs and portraits; he captures life, love and the varied nuances that make up the human race. Photography has always been his passion and he became more serious about it since 2013. However, it was the death of a close family member that pushed him to take his passion for photography more seriously.
McCoy shows respect for his subjects because not only are they are allowing him into their lives, they are also providing healing for him. Serving 2 tours in Iraq, Mike is a disabled veteran and photography has been a therapeutic tool, helping him to navigate through his life by capturing the joy in another’s life.
Joy isn’t the only emotion that he captures. Growing up just ten blocks from where the Freddie Gray incident occurred, McCoy captured the raw, powerful emotions of protestors of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Using his photojournalistic skills he caught the pain and heartbreak that spanned across different generations while simultaneously immortalizing the hope for the future generations that may live in a world where their skin color and culture does not limit the possibilities of their future.
Taking cues from great photographers such as Gordon Parks, Eli Reed, John White, Jamel Shabazz, Roy DeCarava and Robert Frank. McCoy captures the moments of people’s lives that are rarely seen in black and white. Those are what he calls “in-between” moments because they tend to be the most authentic representation of the subject. His love for the craft stems from a knowledge that a life can change with just one picture.
I enjoy painting and repainting edges and fleshy surfaces with loaded brushstrokes and broken, muddy colors, along with a desire for my work to become more subtle, painted form. I like looking at the surfaces of things.