From 2004 - 2011, my work had drawn inspiration from a multitude of quirky characters and funky forms produced in plastic toys. Most of the toys I had chosen to paint were products of children’s fast food meals, salvaged from thrift stores. I found the toys culturally loaded, emotionally edgy and uncomfortable in their plastic material. As I observed them for hours, day after day, in my practice of painting, they would move: either by settling into the inevitable gravity that would pull the toy pile down or jiggling in the corner of my eye’s peripheral vision as I turned away to find a color on my palette. I concluded that I wasn’t painting still lifes, I was painting unstill lifes.
The paintings I created from these discarded playthings often fell into two opposite categories: one being critical of our consumer society, the other being complicit to it. In the former category, I painted densely packed piles of toys that spoke to me of mass consumerism, chaos and cultural vertigo. In the later, I handled them as if they were forgotten treasure. I set apart special toys and with the eye of a child, focused on them as endearingly as he or she would a favorite plaything, animating them through paint.
With my portraits of puppets and other singularly depicted toys, I tried to reclaim a sense of preciousness within these mass-produced objects. I wanted to breathe life into them. Just as a child’s projection into a beloved toy blurs reality and pretend, so also moves the creative act in an artist’s studio. The painter Philip Guston once wrote; “In Rembrandt the plane of art is removed. It is not a painting, but a real person – a substitute, a golem.” With my tondos like “Portrait of Olive Oyl as a Rembrandt”, this quote was foremost in my mind. Puppets posed for their portraits in my studio and as they “sat” for me, I lovingly molded an image that represented them somewhere in between reality and unreality, static and animation, flatness and volume. Like the story of Pinocchio, the still life object and the painted picture plane endeavored to be real under my eye and hand.