My American Dream: Heroes and Villain
Andrew and Empire, 2018 Oil on linen 78 × 52 inches
Andrew and Empire, 2018
Oil on linen 78 × 52 inches

This is painting from a photo I took on my cell phone from recently when we still lived in Manhattan. This is from near the corner on 34th and 9th, and it’s the back of my husband Andrew Madrid’s head on the left, and to the right is where we would park our car in the lot to the right—we also used to go to the movie theater all the time on 34th St., and it could be from following him back one of those evenings. For the last few years of living here, I would obsessively post an image of the Empire State Building on social media, in a way giving a prayer of peace to my friends via this symbol, which for me represents all that is good in America, NYC, and the good-energy power of the grand optimism of the Empire State Building, one of the great masterpieces of architecture in our world, built with extreme stealth in a time of the great depression. But in some cases, when distorted, the symbolism, in its abstraction, of what a falling Empire threatens to be, like the perilous Carl Andre bricks in his sculpture Manifest Destiny in the Judd home in Soho. I’m also channeling a bit of the Americana impressionism of Childe Hassam here, but also the Kirschner street scenes of peoples that are the source of his expressionistic anxieties (and Munch and more!), with the silhouette of my husband as an avatar to place them into the scene. When we lived here on the constant hustle, we really worked hard to achieve our dreams of success, both personally, politically, and in terms of career, and largely achieved a certain plateau, as now I’m proud to be a full tenured professor at USC with also an art career, good health, and good family. But we are in troubled times as a nation, and alternatively optimistically listening to the best music that inspires my soul, I listened to much of the “real” news of MSNBC, CNN, NPR and more, hoping for a better tomorrow with America’s democracy seeming to threaten to unravel under our current would-be fascist rule. Holding on and fighting has been a theme in our lives, and in the life of the nation, and I hope that some of this is impacted, even beyond the symbolism in this work. I like to bring modernism and the painterly to my postmodern subjects, and hope that projecting my thoughts and subconscious through my brush, painting the pixels of a motion and noise-filled phone camera pic of Empire like Cézanne would project onto his Mont Sainte-Victoire, could amount to something more transcendent than the actual object itself. Bringing about what I could perceive in the foliage of trees and distortion, painting micromanaged distortion as if it were real, is able to gleam the unconscious symbolist imagery that could encapsulate the spiritual hope, but also anxiety, of our tremulous age.