I have been painting from my own photos for some years now, after years of working from appropriation, using characters and scenes as allegorical avatars for the larger, non-linear narratives I assemble from paintings working like panels in a comic, where the viewer ultimately decides the ultimate narrative what the theme could be about. I love the Beatles, who a sort of first Post Modern band, spoke through avatars about their real life (they weren’t the Beatles, they were “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” when Paul wrote a song for John Lennon’s first son when he parents were getting divorced it wasn’t “Hey Julian,” but “Hey Jude”). I also love John and Yoko, post-Beatles, when they wrote and sung songs about themselves, a sort of Post Post-Modernism, because the personal was political, and although autobiographic, the music and the sentiment was so strong it had more “universal value”. So in painting pictures of my husband Andrew Madrid and I, of our world living in New York and California, I’m hoping the painterly resonance of the pictures appeals to others who can cathect to it’s vision.
I was influenced also in part by T.J. Clark’s “The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and his Followers,” where he described how the impressionist wanted to paint scenes of Paris, but not necessarily the aspects the tourists knew, but the gentrified margins that the tourists didn’t see, the real Paris. In painting from my photos of New York, I want to bring this about, but also to point to aspects tourist might not see behind the verneer. I love Manet, who was able to turn his personal world into an also political one, that referred to aspects and ideas in the world beyond his canvas, and also bringing an emotive, painterly touch to his brush that also could simultaneously convey emotion and transcendence to his critical mind and ideas. In painting Times Square, I wanted to expose the buildings and the edifices that the bright world of capital and corporate conglomerate culture almost submerges, to bring about the human, hopefully sublime experience that I still feel when I cross through the bustling universe that seems the center of our globe. In the movie “They Live” by John Carpenter, its an almost post-Marxist satire on America, where when the working class obtain special glasses, they can see the wealthy are alien robots who control the masses—when with the same sunglasses they look at billboards, the words on the sign say things like “CONSUME” and “BUY”. At this moment, around Christmas time in Times Square, the HSBC sign flashed “DO” during a sequence, and I appreciated how this could be a theme for our America, but maybe in a good way. I am inspired by the films and references in the signs here, and we really are about “DO” everyday as New Yorkers to survive and succeed, and as much as this could be a comment on Capitalism, its also an endorsement for the American Dream, in that hopefully its still true that if we try hard, we can achieve our goals, and lift ourselves into a world of freedom and responsibility. As a son of a psychoanalyst, I have a penchant for the unconscious, and want some of the abstract, unconscious feelings and subconscious iconography spill out along with my conscious brush, and hope that in the lower portion of the painting especially, where humans and cars habitate underneath the signage, that it breaks down into little Broadway Boogie Woogies that are synaesthetic for the excited human agency that populates and hopefully makes even better our world.
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Mondrian, Broadway Boogie Woogie, 1942-43, collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
I have always appreciated the Ashcan school in general, but in particular, George Bellows, who like Monet and his steam engines, portrayed a content-charged landscape of New York by painting it as it “really was” at his time, for timeless pictures that still resonate.
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George Bellows, New York, 1911, collection of the National Gallery, Washington, D.C.
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Joseph Stella, The Brooklyn Bridge, 1939, Whitney Museum