A Reflection Upon The ID/Face Series
In the mid 1990s I created a series of works on paper that referenced the Rorschach ink-blot test. It is a test designed as a psychological diagnostic tool. The neurotic patient would project personal characteristics and emotional dis-functioning onto the symmetrically ambiguous image. I was intrigued by the reflection and symmetry of the images. An image on one side of the paper when replicated in reverse (on the opposite side) creates a larger more complex image. Most importantly, I was intrigued by the overarching metaphor it implied—in a cultural sense. In addition to the design of the Rorschach, I was intrigued by the concept of psychological projection as purported by the influential Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung. As a defense mechanism, he said that we project our unwanted emotions onto other people. For example, a cheating spouse might suspect their partner of being unfaithful.
In 1993, Dave Hickey published a book called The Invisible Dragon which turned the artworld on its head. For decades, the concept of beauty had been disregarded (by artists) and considered frivolous and shallow. Hickey’s book aimed to make beauty acceptable again. I became interested in our western, contemporary notion of beauty. It’s a tradition that emanated from the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato. As a result, ancient Grecian culture gave us the “Golden Ratio.” Since antiquity, artists such as Leonardo da Vinci used the ratio to define symmetry in structures including the human body. Simply put, bodies (and faces) that are more symmetrical are more beautiful. My ID/Face series of watercolor paintings were designed to overturn this notion by taking symmetry and beauty to an absurd level. My imagery came from pop culture magazines from the 1950s and 60s such as Vogue, Time, and Life. These magazines contributed in cultivating and idealizing our cultural ideals of beauty. In addition, I was fascinated by the crude quality of the printed photographs that left the images somewhat ambiguous. This allowed me space to project my imagination onto them.
My ID/Face series of watercolor ink on paper paintings were executed in 1997/98. They were created in the same manner as Dr. Hermann Rorschach’s ink-blot test--using similar toned ink. Working from photographs of faces from vintage magazines, I painted one side of the face. Before the watercolor ink dried, I folded the paper (creating a crease) and printed the mirror image on the opposite side of the paper. Leaving a crease reveals the process. The printed image appears incomplete and ghostly. Using the printed image as a guide, I repainted the image to match the opposite side. As a way for the viewer to identify with the faces I painted them life-sized or human scale. These paintings were exhibited at Stefany Martz Gallery in Soho, New York City in 1998. They were installed in the corner of the gallery. I configured seven paintings on the left wall and seven on the right. The corner of the room was intended to replicate the crease in the paper as a way to continue the theme of reflection.
Since the exhibition in Soho, these paintings have been stored in the flat-files of my studio. Taking them out (after 20 plus years) has revealed (to me) how they align into the trajectory of my inquiry as an artist. Conceptually, these paintings expose my mind at work—processing perceptions, ideas, and thoughts. An observer can see how the ID/Face series evolved into the Hybrids series. In the Hybrids paintings the viewer is engaged by inconsistent or nearly symmetrical design. The insect imagery on the left side isn’t the same as the techno-imagery on the right. In a sense, I’m playing a visual game with the viewer—hide the image. My desire is that the viewer’s interactive experience with the artwork (and hence the artist) will initiate them to look within themselves—to reflect on their own perceptions and develop a greater understanding of who they are—their own IDENTITY/FACE.