Date of Award

Spring 5-30-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

Department

Painting

First Advisor

Kevin Zucker

Second Advisor

Kristina Lee

Third Advisor

Roger White

Abstract

This series of works proposes the merging of aesthetic interests that undermine the self-seriousness of the artist and the idea of labor in painting. Painting’s slowing of time can hopefully extinguish the peripheral noise of the outside world and provide space for thought. These paintings propose different ways to help the viewer understand visual depth, narrative, and formal decision-making. The optical depth of red, the spatial depth of glazed paint, and the spiritual depth of the figure can provide multiple meanings and possibilities. Another metaphor for the development of this series of paintings would be one comedian telling a joke to another comedian, that comedian telling the same joke to another comedian, and so on, until over time the joke loses its original punch line.

This work is in conversation with Lester Johnson, Peter Saul, Carol Dunham, Jim Nutt, Gladys Nielson, Francis Picabia, Medieval art, William Hogarth, Andy Kaufman, and Franz Kafka. These artists strategized to make work based on scholarship while also maintaining humor throughout their careers. Compositionally they meticulously built their narratives around geometry or set pieces that also served a satirical function. Others pushed the boundaries between figuration and abstraction by distorting the human form. These artists are figurative artists, but they have an affinity for inventing compositions that use the entire canvas, often bending the limits of space and form. Saul, Dunham, Nutt, and Nielson all engage with grotesque humor, emphasizing the middle class, banal existence of their characters. An airbrush, in particular, is primarily used for commercial use such as illustration, graffiti, tattoos, touch ups, etc. I find the disparity between the high expectations of stretched canvas and the faux-ness of an airbrush to be comical, but also disruptive. In opposition to the heavy art historical origins of painting, airbrush provides a levity and superficiality reflective of our contemporary sensibilities. It provides tactility as a substitute for the immersion of Netflix.

Painting’s tactility, surface, physicality and color are real. To look, to scan, to observe, to locate the visual cues, are to dismantle painting’s meaning and reopen the space to the humorous, debauched, wry, nonsensical inner language of the artist. These paintings propose a disruption of painting’s banal space and flattened visual field.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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