Yellow Brick Road
America is a nation of people that seems obsessed with image. And, oddly enough, it is a nation of increasingly obese people. You can hardly open a magazine or other periodical today without seeing another advertisement for some sort of miracle weight loss plan or diet pill. So when, years ago, I first came across the images that inspired this show I was struck by one if the great dichotomies of life – how much things have changed and how much they have stayed the same. Apparently a depression era American was equally concerned with appearances, but a nation that had been starving for a decade was worried about being too thin, not too fat. One thing, however, has remained unchanged – we are still looking for that miracle cure for our problems, that magic pill that will make us into the person we want to be, that quick fix that will transform us from bad (skinny / fat) to good (beautiful).
When I started working on this show, I had these things in my mind and wanted to work in some imagery that would serve as a backdrop for the idea of the quick fix. Enter the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy, and her little group of travelers. Just as Dorothy and her friends looked to the Wizard to grant them all their hearts desires, so did the body conscious American of the late ‘30s look to Charles Atlas and products like Kelpamalt and Ionized Yeast to solve their image problems.
As I was working on the paintings at some point it occurred to me that the images also read as a metaphor for sexual attractiveness in the age of AIDS. With wasting syndrome serving as a red flag for infection, no one wants to be perceived as too thin. At least an outward appearance of health and vitality is something many will go to great lengths to achieve.
So, when looking at these paintings, keep in mind that they may be enjoyed on several different levels. I hope that they are funny, serious, lighthearted, and thought provoking - and most of all a pleasure to look at. Because, in the end, that is what this is all about.
Years ago the Star Tribune ran a photo on the front page of the sports section of two Olympic team members embracing after winning an important race. I found it sweet and rather sexy. It saddened me to think that the sports arena is one of the few in which such displays of physical affection between men is deemed appropriate in our culture. It also occurred to me how such an image might appear taken out of that particular context and shown more the way I had perceived it. So that's what I did. Then it occurred to me to go one step further and not only take it out of context but to put it in an entirely different one.
So I lifted imagery from pornography, also presenting those images out of context. By selecting an instant here or there where two men embrace or kiss, I hoped to reframe it as I saw it in that moment - with tenderness and a connection that was likely not really there. I hope to convince the viewer they are not looking at pornographic images despite the source. Hopefully the differences between the image lifted from the sports page and the image lifted from the porn melt away, in the end relating to neither but meeting somewhere between. I want the viewer to consider how we perceive the things we see based on the context in which we see them, and hopefully realize that our reality is to a certain extent subjective.