“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. “
This series is a departure from my illusionary still lifes, more graphic in quality and addresses an overtly controversial topic. Remaining is the use of symbolism to address subjects in a surreptitious manner.
Sandy Hook served as a sort of ‘final straw.’ I sat quiet long enough after Columbine and various similar events unfolded. I was compelled to express my feelings regarding the effects of these tragedies. The thought of ‘Small Targets’ originally came from the heartbreaking stories of the Stockton school shooting, which took place a mere thirty minutes from UC Berkeley where I was a graduate student. An ever-growing occurrence, I remain as shocked at the thought of children as “targets” as I was that day. As I researched, I found Google maps where each school shooting’s location was indicated by a red pin. The map was filled with drop pins too numerous to count. As these overlap they block our memory of previous tragedies — a parallel to an overloaded consciousness — we collectively forget the impact of each personal loss.
The Target was an obvious symbol to represent the random acts of violence that have become all too commonplace. It is immediately recognizable and universally suggests a predator setting aim on a focused subject. When I began my research three years ago, the intended topic was school shootings – unfathomable small targets. However, as I worked through the initial concepts, the series evolved into a broader depiction. I started to consider the more expansive concepts of targeted violence such as: Black Lives Matter, the Pulse nightclub massacre, the July 7th Dallas Police shootings, the Holocaust and other forms of religious persecution.
The layering of content is as interesting to me as the layers of strokes. This combined focus is ever engaging for me as a painter. Expressing the effects of light and color on forms is a constant in my process, no matter the subject. Specific to this series, I purposed strong physical surface texture to suggest a subtext of tumultuous movement and mood.
Aesthetically, the works that represent a specific shooting are intentionally uncomfortable, many of these developed over a collaged target. Concerning myself less with a formally pleasing composition, I instead blatantly display the message over a target or ‘X’ form which extends from one end of the canvas to the other. Unintentionally, these works developed much darker palettes than planned, possibly due to the level of emotional involvement in their creation. Some of the small Targets works treat the subject symbolically. These works evolved into a more static, calm, formal space; some even contain pleasing colors and imagery.
As always, I strive for my work to be visually interesting while inspiring an introspective search for meaning. I very much agree with Max Beckman who stated, “In order to get something universal you must be very specific.” I don’t presume to provide solutions to this complicated dilemma. I desire to stir awareness to the tragic losses and hope these works spur open dialogue regarding what can be done to prevent the excessive incidents of gun violence. If ignored, we are all possible “Targets.”