Filling In the Blanks: A Family Archive in the Form of Paintings

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In support of my thesis, consider philosopher Michael Foucault's explanation of order as an artificial construct that cannot exist 'except in the grid created by a glance, an examination, or a language.' This developmental scheme of classification, through a systematic style of grouping, results in a formed logic expressed in my senior BFA thesis show. Foucault's theory explores the blank spaces of an imagined grid as the origin of order and where expression is produced. I suggest these blank spaces that Foucault speaks about relate to those missing links within my personal family; as a result, I proposed an intentional plan through painting to suggest a metanarrative. I chose to integrate my source material (my family archive of photos) with invented painted scenes where my subjects (family members) can co-exist in the present. My mission, in combination with my unique process of painting, is to challenge the traditional mode of family portraiture and archival processes. My process is based upon the little knowledge that I have about my family members; thus my imaginative thought process through the media of old family photographs and negatives is communicated through visual references. From photographs to paintings, my subjects are placed within a new order and are provided a place for continuity. While investigating my family history, my paintings and artistic process aim to fill in the blanks and create an aesthetic order that both frames a neutral ground where my subjects co-exist and overcomes my nostalgic tendencies. The deconstruction of the image and its attached signifiers is relevant to my artistic process and can be paralleled with psychoanalytic and philosophical theories. The influence of Melanie Klein, Richard Wollheim and Jacques Lacan's theories on the unconscious and art making will be briefly discussed in relation to my work. Art historical references are also present in my works, which range from artists' works such as Louise Bourgeois' Femme Maisons (1947) and Gerhard Richter's ongoing Atlas (1964) to contemporary painters like Dana Schutz and her army of self-eaters (2004), and Marlene Dumas' latest portraits in the exhibition The Image as Burden (2015). My process as a painter includes the research of these artists and others who have developed my understanding of a deeper theoretical concern that I find prominent in my work. Notably, the majority of these theories discussed in this essay did not come before the making of my work, but rather was discovered afterward and thereby provides support to my thesis. This written thesis accompanies my body of artwork that comprises a total of six paintings, which were exhibited in my BFA thesis show in May 2015.
Thesis completed in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Alfred University Honors Program.
Honors thesis, Family, Ancestry, Painting