Consumed is a series born from my obsessions with American consumer culture, plastic dinosaurs, and kitsch. The series includes traditional oil paintings on panel, small bookplate sized gouaches on paper, and gilded sculptures. Narratives are constructed using human interactions with objects, as well as symbolic pairings of imagery such as garden gnomes, unicorns, pomegranates, and tyrannosaurus rex figurines. T-Rexes began appearing in my work as a reference to my own childhood initiation into a culture of excess, and they have subsequently evolved into functional symbols of consumerism itself. I am deeply appreciative of the irony of an enormous, extinct apex predator being recreated as small plastic icons for mass consumption.
American consumer culture consistently asks us to find emotional value in objects. The result is a society largely inept at social interaction, instead more comfortable finding relationships with its own belongings. These artworks explore the relationships we have with consumed objects, the value we place on such things, as well as the system that perpetuates the hunger for more.
THE GNOME PROJECT
For two years my studio overlooked the Savannah River, and consequently the cargo ships that flowed past en route to ravenous consumers. Commodity culture has invented a product for every possible desire. Some commodities are essential for survival, while others provide only temporary happiness. We are a consumer society enamored with objects.
Since meaning has historically been the crux of painting, I am interested in the kinds of objects that appear to lack meaning or purpose. This body of work began as an investigation of meaning via garden gnomes. A gnome is a peculiar commodity – a kitsch icon with the capacity to reference the whimsy of childhood and the drudgery of working adulthood. Contemporary culture has embraced a tradition of garden gnomes that began in medieval times, though their meaning has largely dissolved into one of contrived sentimentality. Today gnomes are ornamental. They are humanlike, yet not human. Are they merely another plastic thing that aims to fill the insatiable void invoked by contemporary life – or is there something more? Is there meaning in this lowly commodity? The Gnome Project seeks answers.
There is a complicated relationship between consumers and things. Likewise, there is a complicated relationship between the painter and the painting. In this series I investigate gnome portraits, carefully recording their candy colors, pointed hats, and animated expressions. In transitioning a meaningless plastic object to that of an oil painting or drawing, I create a new autonomous object; thus, I contribute to the cycle of consumption in the search to understand.