Marks of the Trade
In this confusing and potentially dangerous time of “fake news” and misinformation, questioning what is “real” has never been so prevalent and perhaps needed as it is today. With an endless stream of political banter, pandemic updates, and other nonessential information, people opt for whatever media outlet(s) align with their preexisting bias. This process of alignment further generates misinformation, which leads to greater confusion. Working as a Union Ironworker, during such a time of uncertainty, has provided me the opportunity to understand and identify with workers who fear uncertainties, misinformation, and societal revisions. As an artist, it is my societal duty to provide questions through my artwork, to a relatively wide audience, rather than answers.
Illusionistic artwork, such as trompe l’oeil (trick of the eye) paintings, function as a bridge to this question of “what is real” for many viewers. Viewers generally experience that “wow, this is a painting?” moment for just a few seconds until the illusion dispels, which is common when viewing conventional trompe l’oeil paintings. Imagine, however, that the viewer, upon close inspection of the artwork, never has that dispelling moment. Even though they may be viewing traditionally rendered illusionistic representational paintings, they are left with questions of authorship and production, similar to that of found objects or readymades. Imagine that William Harnett (Irish-American painter, b.1848) made a painting "realistic" enough to where viewers thought it was an actual collection of objects and not a painting. This productive confusion, along with the absurdity of spending countless hours on painting paintings that are mistaken for objects, mimics my relationship with art and union labor. Union labor, such as digging a ditch, is directly related to value; the number of hours worked equals an exact amount of capitol, even if that value isn’t visually recognizable from the finished product. In opposition to union labor, value is subjectively placed upon artwork, sometimes regardless of how many hours it took to create. My artistic goal is to create artwork that generates contemporary discourse around value and perceived value and its inherit relationship to traditional modes of art-making.