My work juxtaposes the historical connotations of painted portraiture with those of today’s digital images on social media. New tools such as the smart phone and online photo-sharing platforms encourage people to volunteer extreme versions of themselves for the world to see. The ready availability of the camera simultaneously numbs their sense of privacy and empowers them to author reality as they see it. My painting addresses the unnerving ubiquity of subjective visual authors, the observeds’ surrender to the observers’ controls, and the precarious relationship of the information-age painter to his quotidian reality.
As a high school art teacher I task myself with unlocking the creative, artistic identities of my students. Teenagers especially labor to define their identities, and digital media support their efforts to depict their experiences, however accurate or tailored these depictions may be. My painting interprets an image of a violent exchange between students. Viewers find themselves a part of the composition by virtue of the smartphones’ gazes aiming down both at them and the brawling pair in the foreground. Evidence of the underpainting, visible in portions of the fleeing student, testifies to the process. I insert myself in the background as onlooker, a position reflecting my concern for my relationship to my school community but also a reminder of the prevailing power of an artist in the information age.