In the Spring of 2018, I was awarded a Fulbright Scholar Research Grant to Belgium, where I studied Belgian carnival culture and how it related to their painters; Bosch, Bruegel and Ensor. Through this study, it was my intention to understand the bridge between my paintings and my big head mask sculptures.
The pre-Lenten carnival season of Europe occurs near the spring equinox, when winter is ending but spring has not shown its promise of growth or renewal. I am interested in these in-between spaces. In these liminal areas, identities are not fully formed and opportunities arise to see beyond ourselves. Mummer events like carnival, festival, or theater offer the opportunity to transform oneself temporarily into another person or being. The focus is not on the single identity of an individual, but the flux and interchange of relationships and groups. In this way, it forms a venue for empathy with others and an opportunity for sharing.
Many of my paintings feature the mask sculptures I have created in papier-mache as the main protagonist in the pictures story. When creating my paintings narratives, I often attempt to make visual comparisons with American parades and European carnival while acknowledging that they are not all fun and games. When I see the Binche Giles of Belgium, the German Wild Men of the Alps, or the Snap Critters of Northern Italy, I know Western European culture is not as rational or objective as it would like to believe. Sometimes my work responds to the political dystopia and social turmoil that is the upshot of this delusional thinking. If the carnival worlds that I have depicted in my paintings sometimes seem bleak, perhaps the masked heroes residing inside them can survive through an empathy that acknowledges our connection to worlds beyond ourselves.