In my work, I explore intertwined histories of pigment and pharmaceuticals, and the philosophical, cultural, and biological spaces they have occupied. This is driven by the idea of the pharmakon, the ancient Greek word that is the origin of the word pharmaceutical and meant simultaneously “cure”, “poison”, and “paint”. Paint and pharmaceuticals share a long history of techniques of production and usage, starting with early cultures and progressing up to our synthetic present.
In much of my work, I use the actual chemicals themselves – ground up pills or liquid forms of drugs, but also pesticides, energy drinks, and synthetic foods. I also utilize the signs of these objects – logos, promotional objects, and advertisements. I believe that the precision of these signs echoes the precision of the manufacturing of the actual physical chemical molecule itself. These are things that are targeted for us to use and desire and that have an impact on the body. These impacts can be ecstatic or toxic, or a combination of both. I work through these ideas in three main forms of media, painting, sculpture, and video, sometimes culminating in an installation which incorporate all three.
For example, in my latest series of paintings, I am exploring connections between the simultaneous development of synthetic pigments and pharmaceuticals in the late 19th century with the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art movements of the time. Images of urban leisure and refined nature that were popular at that time in works by artists such as Seurat, Monet, and Renoir have continued to have a presence through contemporary advertising, and I layer together appropriated versions of such images from past and present in a single painting. I paint mixing actual drugs with oil or acrylic, literally infusing the image with the chemicals I am connecting with. I work on different surfaces including Kevlar ballistic fabric, Tyvek, and magazine advertisements, as well as traditional canvas or paper.
In another series of figurative, violently abstracted “Death Mask” sculptures, I simultaneously scar and embed clay and wax forms with contemporary objects – pills, bottle caps, credit cards. These composites are then cast in a mixture of plastic and pulverized antidepressants, birth control, Viagra, and ADHD medication. The final forms, human scale and larger, are thus made up of simultaneous additive and subtractive representations of these pharmaceutical elements, and literally infused with the molecular materials that help produce their form.
Video allows me to enter a digital, time-based space, often appropriating television advertisements and digital web artifacts (jpgs and gifs) to create shimmering, hypnotic curtains of color and movement. Logos and animated mascots are overlaid on the bucolic images that dominate advertising, again referencing long histories of class, gender, and race. Connecting the contemporary flatness of the pixel with the traditional mode of painting and mark-making is an important closure of the loops of history and culture that I am working with.