My work examines the aesthetics of leisure, the implications of good and bad taste, and what it means to live one’s best life. I am interested in two particular outcomes of the Industrial Revolution due to how they radically shifted the structure of society and how we think about design. The first was the introduction of a middle class with leisure time and money to spend, who were using those two things to achieve lives they aspired to. The second involves the first generation of tastemakers publishing advice on how one should live their best life. In each of these publications, the theme was that one could achieve social mobility and a greater sense of autonomy through the means of tasteful decoration. As a reward for such success, one’s time could be spent relaxing in pastel-hued paradises by the sea where every detail was designed to make you feel at ease.
Considering the history of design motifs and the influence of color upon the psyche, my paintings contain references to patterns and modes of artifice that have historically been used to elevate or negate the status of a space. These include nods to terrazzo, stucco, sand, faux marble, the Memphis Design group, and color palettes found in spaces of leisure. Each has held an important place in the history of designed spaces, and at one time or another they were deeply celebrated before being criticized. The level of craftsmanship that is required to execute ornamental flourishes was once a highly respected and much sought after skill. Today these decorative techniques are reproduced on a mass scale through mechanization, digitization, and cheaper materials. In making my work, it has been imperative for me to replicate the patterns and techniques of artifice that I am referencing as a way of honoring this history.
I am drawn to the parallels between the surface treatment of furniture and architectural spaces, and the surface of a canvas. My use of materials includes a mixture of high- and lowbrow to reinterpret media such as highly pigmented acrylic paint, natural and artificial sand, volcanic pumice, and hardware store products for DIY home improvement. I use a formal, modernist painting language to elevate the artificial and superficial to the hierarchy associated with the moral underpinnings of modernism. By removing patterns from their utilitarian context and inserting them into labor intensive formal paintings of abstracted leisure spaces, I encourage viewers to dethrone notions of taste. In turn, the sumptuous is no longer relegated to the realm of frivolousness. By being entirely serious about the unserious, this work aims to question the value we assign to play and why tastefulness rarely aligns with fun.