Play Bodies was born of my long-lasting obsession with identity, which started with years of practicing portraiture. After exploring faces for nearly a decade, I found myself drawn to the flesh below them and how it ties us to the cultures we inhabit. Bodies have been policed, restrained, labeled, criticized, brutalized, in order to fit them into an impossibly tight mold, an idealized prison. More violently, we’ve been divorced from our bodies and confined into the tight cage of our minds. From that small window into the world, we pretend to understand it. We categorize everything, force it into words and definitions. It seems to me we’ve lost sight of any existence beyond language – which is why I want to explore bodies as mysterious entities, conveyors of wordless knowledge.
I am interested in the mixing of the personal and the collective, the individuals as puzzle pieces for a larger social picture. In order to create a diverse range of identities, models from different socio-economic communities will be invited to participate. It is very important to me to use live models as it weaves energies and conversations into the paintings. This serves my goal of capturing identities more than simple likeness. All model participants will be compensated for their time and energy, and their names will be presented as collaborators in the presentation of the final piece.
The canvases will be displayed in rows presenting bodies split in halves, exposing the mutability of selfhood while also playfully bridging two and three dimensional art. The installation will allow viewers to interact with the structure, rotating the rows of canvases and creating new identities through the pairing of different halves. Thus, the wood will act as bones to the flesh, a spine around which the soft and oily canvases are spun. This concept is inspired by children’s puzzles and toys where different characters are split into two or three parts that can be rearranged. It highlights the capacity for an open-minded approach young children often display before they have been taught to separate themselves from the ‘other’. I intend for that playfulness to serve as an entry point into more complicated conversations around body image and identity. I desire to stimulate a sense of curiosity and pleasure to the exploration of our flesh vessels and our relationship to them.
In exploring a new approach to showcasing a classical medium such as oil on canvas, this project invites the viewer to play an active role in the semantics of an artform that is usually unmoving and thus interrogates its nature. The aim is to make the experience of shifting identities empowering and offer a reflection of our complex, contradictory, (inherently) queer selves. In a time when we are collectively reckoning with the consequences of our disembodiment and where bodies are the trenches of identity politics, I want to take a new spin on the traditional figure, turn its classical study into an amorphous and fluid exploration more in line with the transformative times.