Date of Award
Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
What is the function of humor in today's society? What is the role of the comedian in increasingly clownish times? How does humor challenge power structures in contemporary life and art? How can painting deploy these methods in an effective manner?
The archetype of the trickster has appeared in myth and literature around the world for many centuries. In all instances it represents the disruptive side of the human imagination, a being that lives outside the rules of conventional behavior who seems to have hidden knowledge or secret understanding of how society truly functions. The archetype of the trickster can be embodied in many different ways in different times and places: from the God Hermes in Ancient Greece, to artists of the modern period such as Marcel Duchamp and Mike Kelley.
Like the trickster. artists create through disruption and exposure but in most cases become the most vulnerable to the things they are disrupting or exposing. I’m interested in creating paintings that operate visually as the trickster does in narrative.I want to create an image that function as visual riddles or satirical allegories, where past and present are happening simultaneously- as a way to expose societies pathologies and cyclical patterns. The use of visceral thinned oil paint or warped imagery acts as visual disruption, allowing me to work within a tradition while simultaneously mocking it.
Disruption and obstruction function as challenge of power. The politics of my paintings are embedded in their atmosphere and the material application of Proof Copy: Not optimized for high quality printing or digital distribution paint. Like the trickster their myths and actions are heavily coded. The results and origins of their tricks or jokes never immediately expose themselves, but are endlessly unfolding and expanding. They are jokes that tell themselves.
The figures in my paintings are comedic and playful. They explore tragedy and potential truth in the form of a joke, riddle, or game. With the use of visible brushwork, their bodies are depicted as malleable and open. In many of the works, a light source radiates from within each body. I’m interested in depicting the figures in my paintings as people with potential for transformation and movement. I want a sense that they have personal agency, but are still vulnerable to their surroundings and their interactions with other bodies.
Humor isn't always funny, and trickery isn't always tragic. In many cases a joke comes from a place of deep sadness and desperation, an urgent need to expose something for what it really is. The self-imposed humiliation of the clown or comedian disarms the viewer or audience and the viewer becomes as vulnerable as the performer. The audience become aware of themselves as performers in society.
Gilbert, Evan, "Spontaneous laughter, laughter without reason" (2019). Masters Theses. 347.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.