Intersections of Human Nature

Intersections of Human Nature

From now until the end of the semester I will investigate the Intersections of Human nature through painting. I will explore how humanity intersects with nature – whether through our behaviors or just from appearances with depth and unique vision. Humans, if even just their portraits (face), will be juxtaposed with nature in a variety of ways. This means, a person could be living an ‘ordinary life’ (ei, sitting on a recliner) but into a completely different context (ei in a desert or a forest) that questions the nature of these ‘ordinary’ behaviors. Another way I hope to explore this is by having a person figure be so integrated into the landscape that they almost become a part of it – similar to how the ‘Crazy horse’ monument in South Dakota is carved into the side of the mountain – or even nature being part of their form. Another way I can integrate the individuals is by overlaying them over the landscape – almost ghostlike in some aspect – or even doing the opposite, where the natural aspects look almost ghost like inside of a home or city. While I have seen quite a few statement pieces of similar nature, many of them are painted in such a surreal fashion that they appear to be apart of a story. As I explore this theme, I hope to discover my own niche within these paintings and continually develop and refine my painting style.

It will be a challenge for me to make these pieces in such a way that they do NOT have a ‘fantasy’ overtones  or appears surreal as many present day artists do today – such as those we see on Instagram or DeviantArt– in order to have a credible feel. Oftentimes, art that is created with these fantasy styles or palate can be easily brushed off and perceived as ‘video game’ art and not taken seriously as a piece. I hope to maintain this sense of seriousness through realistic painting styles and palates inspired by a few contemporary artists – Kehinde Wiley, Walton Ford and Simen Johan.

Kehinde Wiley is an amazing painter, thinker, and organizer. I admire him for many reasons – and one of those reasons is his painting style. The portraits of black Americans are drawn very realistically.  While they may not depict the individuals perfectly, the individuals seem larger than life. The bright lighting on these people truly make them shine – looking almost too real. The distinct colors and patterns are also beautiful – though I most likely will not have something similar in my pieces, especially not the precise patterned lines. However, this type of juxtaposition many be present in one of my pieces!

Walton Ford is a printmaker featured on art 21who “blend[s] depictions of nature with historical events and sociopolitical commentary” according the Smithsonian American Art museum. His style is similar to those of traditional natural history painters hundreds of years ago – scientist artists who attempted to let other know about the world before photographs were easily accessible. He is able to clearly depict his message using nature. His pieces are beautifully realistic, a bit surreal – but not to the point of fairytale imagery. Some of his pieces have animals doing things that human typically go – an elephant holding a staff, or a family of monkeys sitting and lounging at a dinner table together – but in a non-comical sense (such as the famous painting of dogs playing poker)

A photographer and sculptor, Simen Johan “ depicts a natural world hovering between reality, fantasy and nightmare” according in to the Yossi Milo Gallery website. Until the kingdom comes is a series of edited photos that have an eerie feeling to them, Through the use of colors and composition, his pieces show a subtle fear of the future. One of them, most striking to me in reference to pieces I am working on in the student studio, is of 3 bears resting and laying on top of piles of trash. In these pieces we cans see odd juxtapositions of creatures interacting with each other, nature, landscapes and humanity – with varying degrees of what we may see in real life. I hope to explore this sort of idea in one of the pieces. Here, humans would be ironically arranged completely out of context alongside the rest of nature – a setting that a few thousands, or even hundred, years ago would seem completely normal or ‘natural’.

Drawing from what I observed from these other artists, I plan to have a narrow, selective palette. I hope to have primarily muted, more beige than pastel, tones. Many browns and tan variations of colors. One of a three places may have more defiant, full, tones to provide focus. These objects and locations will be chosen carefully so that they may depict the idea of the individual piece most fittingly. I thoroughly enjoy painting in vivid colors, but in order to avoid a fantasy perception these naturalistic earthy and historical tones may be more appropriate – but a few will most definitely peek through! I hope to continue using oil paints, though I am not closed off from the possibility to using acrylics alongside the oils or even exclusively for a piece. After using wood panels for the whole semester thus far, I hope to return to the canvas. It would not be surprising to me , however, if these wood panel reappears in one of the paintings. I hope to have larger pieces, as I feel as though I can achieve greater details and precision in bigger paintings – painting with small brushes can be difficult for me sometimes. However, I am fairly attracted to the idea of creating a tryptic for one of these pieces – or at least making a larger piece out of smaller parts. Pieces being divided in such an abrupt way, with having literal gap in between them, is a concept that could be pretty fitting to my theme.

This series of paintings give me an excellent opportunity to explore themes and subjects that are most interesting to me. Human portraits have always captured my attention, and I cannot wait to refine my skills in painting them – especially surrounding a concept that is very interesting to me. I always wonder what my effect on nature is – especially when I’m out hiking or running on more secluded trails. Having had recent trips in Panama and Utah and Arizona give me a plethora of landscape photos and subjects to paint – from deep valleys to small salamanders, to dusty canyons. Finding subjects to paint will be difficult for me, as portraiture can be quite a personal and intimate ordeal. I am considering simply painting a face without any single person, rather a few inspirations instead -which would pose its own difficulties (proportions wise) Otherwise, I may post sheets of paper around campus asking for help (as I can imagine asking one of my friends for them to pose for me!) which would help me encounter new people. And so the question remains – how exactly will this body of work go forward? How exactly will my pieces come to being? I can honestly say that I do not know – but as the famous BioMuseo artists and architect, Frank Gehry said “If you already know where you’re going, then what’s the point?”