I identify this body of work as Nouveau Western. The traditional Western genre feels like the same story over and over again. Stories written for the male gaze with female characters designed to attract that voyeuristic male gaze. Stories that perpetuate the idea of regeneration thru violence and that masculinity has to be re-enforced by constant violence. Stories with heavy handed notions of freedom and unfreedom. Stories of liberal individualism which assume that the conditions of the Western frontier make everyone equal. Though I have most definitely been seduced by these stories my work is an attempt to counter these narratives.
Art for me has always been a vehicle for social criticism and focusing on issues of our time. How do we talk about the history that divides and binds us together? As a white woman, contemporary settler and settler-descendent my history of privilege is complex and both consciously and subconsciously woven into how I show up in the world as an artist and person. Recently I have been particularly interested in investigating my own identity and, more than any time before in my life, my current art practice has become an interior place. I have been trying to challenge myself with a practice of looking inward when I am in creation mode. For a variety of reasons it feels like an appropriate moment but it also brings with it a host of vulnerabilities that present themselves especially when my own image looks back at me. This act of turning towards has felt important.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about collaboration and consent within our culture and when it comes to working in the medium of collage. Several of the pieces in this show feature images by the photographer Ivan McClellan. A few years ago I came across Ivan’s work and bought his beautiful book Eight Seconds. The book is a photographic exploration of contemporary Black cowboy culture around America. I reached out to Ivan and asked if he would consent to me including some of his work in my collages. He (very generously) said yes and we agreed upon 3 images. You’ll see these images appear multiple times in this body of work. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of these pieces will go to support the Philadelphia Urban Riding Academy (PURA). PURA works to preserve the life, legacy, and culture of Black urban cowboys in Philadelphia. 2 of the pieces in this show are also collaborative works between myself and the artist George Middleton. George is a masterful painter whom I have collaborated with in the past. I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to collaborate with both Ivan and George, thank you both!