Barack Obama, 2008 Oil on linen 48 × 38 inches
Barack Obama, 2008
Oil on linen 48 × 38 inches

Irony is such a loaded word. If irony means that "the surface meaning and the underlying meaning of what is said are not the same," I hope that my work is NOT ironic, but, rather, that the images are about everything they seem to be and also work as metaphors for larger allegorical truths.

When I create my work I use a similar process as a method actor, trying to project my own life, thoughts, and feelings onto the image. As I paint the abstract notions of positive and negative forms, dark and light values, etc, I listen to music, audiobooks, etc, that relate to the work’s subject matter, and otherwise do my research, but ultimately I think about what the work means in my own personal ideological and emotional world to hopefully bring life (and perhaps my unconscious thoughts and feelings) into the frame of the representational aspects of the image. The subject matter is pertinent, but it’s what I bring to subject matter that is important, and then, like a comic stain-glassed window or prose poem, how that image coincides with other images in the installation gives the work its ultimate meaning.

For example, this painting came from a body of work Good Leaders, Endangered Species, Ships at Sea, which was exhibited just before and during the presidential election when Obama first won. I really felt that we needed "good leaders," as we were all like "endangered species" in a world that was like a "ship at sea." I painted Obama because I truly admire him and his ideology–I chose an image of him in front of the Capitol (infamously built by slaves) with his armed crossed and a confident smile as he represented (at the time) one of the few African American senators in American history. I listened to his autobiographies on audio while painting and learned all I could about the man to hopefully bring out his inner personality in the portrait and my feelings about him.

You think that the artworld is mostly "super lefty liberal" but its not always… Your show always begins with the invitation, and I chose to put this image for the poster we sent out to people. I was shocked that people a few people called into the gallery to say "take me off your mailing list—FOREVER" as they were McCain supporters! But I was very proud and happy to have this painting up before and after he was first elected, and elated how many found it to be a warm, powerful image that they "needed to see"—I worked super hard on this painting to give it all I had—for me, he was the first president since the Jimmy Carter of my youth that I could really believe in, and in the last months of his second term, I’m still a believer, and think that, despite all, he is a President that changed the world, and a model of what it takes to be a Great Leader.