Our national and cultural identity has long been dominated by a selfish and unwelcoming ideology. From a narrowly defined idea of patriotism to the popular stories and legends of our history, an image of America has been championed that resists change, suppresses differences and refuses to fully acknowledge its own failures. These qualities have become so entangled with the dominant portrait of America that at times it has become impossible not to see them as core principles of the American character. But we know that's not the case.
My work depicts young people dressed up in the costumes of familiar figures as they struggle, ponder and question their surroundings in an effort to breathe new life into these tainted representations of Americana. Using a keyed-up CMYK palette, I paint with an energetic mark that seeks to rediscover the excitement of creating a hand-made image that can sit comfortably with the digital and photographic images that prevail in our era. The paintings begin in a place of abstraction, in love with vibrant colors and kinetic marks. These elements collect around familiar sights and details, working their way toward building recognizable representations that finally make sense as portraits of American landscapes and figures. It is through this that I strive to find something new in the familiar picture of America.
Photos by John Carleton.