I paint the way I understand others; as a complex and multi-faceted arrangement of moments filtered through our own perceptions. I try to elicit the viewer’s curiosity by leaving discrepancies: layering moments and fragments that create a portrait with depth. It is human nature to be fascinated by others, but the cultural fear of difference often overrides. I purposefully leave exploration to be done in my paintings; this is where the viewer comes in. Because the paintings are open for interpretation, each and every perception is a window into the viewer’s mind. Thus the painting is not a portrait of an individual but a collection of the viewers’ perceptions.
Historically, the object of the gaze is a passive figure who is for the pleasure and consumption of the active viewer, who often holds power. This is a hyper sexualized and gendered scenario. Even the objects have learned to view themselves and others through the lens of the dominant gaze. Today, gaze theory is complicated by public awareness of gender defiance (i.e. transgender, non-binary genders, those who reject gender roles) and heteronormativity defiance. Mass culture’s paradoxical absolutes that we have carefully learned – and forgotten we have learned – tell us to place those who don’t fit into our schemas into the category of “other.” This is a cultural erasure of difference and gender identity. My work responds with difference to a history of the gaze by situating the viewer where their gaze is returned, engaging the viewers’ receptiveness and relatedness with the figure. The viewer starts to explore the subjects’ vulnerabilities alongside their own, changing the scripts of voyeuristic gaze to empathetic listening.
Many of us have a discrepancy between what others see and what we hold true. By removing gendered context my work reframes the scenario, and vulnerability and power find balance on either side of the canvas.