I see all of my work as an antidote to historical amnesia. My paintings and films revisit well-known U.S. history paintings to critique their portrayal of celebrated events. These paintings have become embedded in our visual collective memory. They give color, form, and feeling to the past and contribute to the creation of our national mythology.
In John Trumbull’s painting, The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776, (1787-1802) we see the founding fathers of this country in all their “civil heroism”. However, absent from this scene are the lives and labors, sacrifices and struggles, hopes and fears of those groups that fought in that war that launched this nation. Another iconic painting considered is, Sunday Morning in the Mines (1872), by Charles Nahl. In that painting of the California Gold Rush, missing are Miwok Indians and women as well as Mexicans, Chileans, Chinese, and African Americans (both free and enslaved) that mined alongside French and Belgian men. The official narrative as it has been depicted in paintings from the time of its founding and up to our current moment is missing many people’s lives and stories. In 2017 (and beyond), when we look at cinematic narratives from Hollywood or Silicon Valley whose stories are absent from screens, big and small?
My work attempts to create a visual bridge between the past and present by illuminating untold and erased stories and setting them alongside exigent current events. Moreover, it is my way of participating in the expansion of the ever-unfolding grand, historical drama. Rising inequalities in this country continue to devastate so many lives and have polarized communities. I see my paintings and films as an opening to foster much needed conversations around racial, gender, and class prejudice and bring them into the public realm where action can be cultivated.